Harnett Central’s varsity volleyball team opened All American 3-A/4-A Conference play by picking up its first win of the season with a 3-0 victory over visiting Harnett County rival Western Harnett on Tuesday. Individual set scores were 25-7, 25-19 and 28-26.
“We’ve been struggling playing kind of consistent and as a team,” said Harnett Central coach Ashley Gaines. “Those were two big things that we talked about tonight was just being consistent and playing as a team. Everybody talking. Everybody moving. I don’t think you could have asked for a better team effort. Everybody got to play tonight. In the first set, I told them, ‘Go out and make a statement tonight.’ And I think we did.”
Western Harnett coach Hallie Hales said the Eagles had too many self-inflicted wounds.
“Right now, we’re battling ourselves,” Hales said. “We’re making it really hard on ourselves. We’re struggling with getting those passes and in crucial moments we just set up situations for the other teams. So, we’ve really got to work on that.”
Senior Ivanna Jones had nine kills, six digs and five aces on 11 service points to lead the Trojans (1-4, 1-0 AAC).
“I talked to Ivanna early on in the season and didn’t want her to feel like all the pressure was on her,” Gaines said. “But she does have a big role. This year she’s kind of our go-to hitter. Our go-to person when we’re in trouble. We want Ivanna having the ball. She wants the ball in her hands at all times and that’s the kind of player you want on your team. She’s not scared of it. She’s not going to back down. Tonight she proved she’s ready to be a senior, be a leader and fill that role for us.”
Junior Lily Gervase was also a major factor at the net for Central, with five kills and two blocks.
“She kind of looks timid on the outside when you first get to know her. She’s very soft spoken,” Gaines said. “But when she gets the ball in her hands, she’s dangerous. That’s what we continue to tell her is just continue to have that killer’s mentality. We told her that’s her net and she’s got to let other girls know it.”
Sinai Avalos-Beltran had six kills, one assist, six digs and one ace on eight service points. Carlee Harrell had four kills, 10 assists, 13 digs and four aces on 13 service points. Carlie Love had two kills, 10 assists and seven digs and held serve for one point. KeErica Snead had one kill, one assist and two digs. Mikaela Goss had one assist, 11 digs and three aces on 10 service points. Novie Womack had one assist and one dig. Elle Gardner had three digs. Ashley Bliven and Cayleigh Hughes had two digs apiece. Gervase had one dig and three aces on five service points.
The Eagles (0-5, 0-1) were led by senior Makenyia Mackey, with eight kills, seven assists, one block, 10 digs and one ace on three service points.
“She is a volleyball player,” Hales said. “So, we rely on her a lot. She’s under a lot of pressure. We have a lot riding on her. When we can all play with her, everybody plays to their best level. We’re just trying to get to that page right now.”
Tristan Stewart had three kills and one dig. Carolina Simpkins had two kills and three blocks and held serve for two points. Cassidy Henderson had two kills, one block and one dig. Sydney Jackson had one kill, seven digs and one ace on eight service points. Gracie Olive had seven assists, four digs and one ace on six service points. Madison Smith had two assists, 10 digs and one ace on two service points. Lily Campbell had one dig.
Central dominated the first set. With Western leading 4-3, a Jones kill, assisted by Avalos-Beltran, started the Trojans on a 22-3 run to close out the set.
“We made a little bit of a lineup change before the first set,” Hales said. “They had not played that way yet, so they were not comfortable there yet. So, then we went back to what we had been doing and it definitely was an improvement. But we just started out slow and this is a team that has to start out strong and keep that momentum to be successful.”
Central led 18-10 in the second set when a Simpkins block sparked an 8-2 run for the Eagles to cut the lead to two. But Central ended the set on a 5-1 run.
Western had a big rally again in the third set. With Central leading 18-10, the Eagles went on a 14-5 run to hold set point, at 24-23. The Trojans fought back to take the set to extra points and eventually won the set when back-to-back kills from Gervase and Jones, both assisted by Love, ended the match.
Harnett Central is at conference opponent Westover and Western Harnett is at home against league foe Pine Forest on Thursday.