Triton’s varsity volleyball team celebrated its Senior Night on Tuesday with a dramatic 3-2 win over visiting Tri-County Six 3-A Conference leader Union Pines, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to give the Vikings their first conference loss of the season. Individual set scores were 21-25, 14-25, 25-14, 25-20 and 15-13.
“I just told them that we had been playing a lot better volleyball before Christmas break,” said Triton coach Wendy Simmons. “And that nothing should have changed and that they needed to make this a night that they would remember. They needed to leave it all out there on the floor. They needed to play as hard as they could. They needed to believe that they could beat that team. And for the most part, we did. I did tell the girls, too, that I didn’t care if it took until 10:00, they needed to go out there and play harder and they could win.”
The loss is the first in conference play for Union Pines since a 3-2 loss at Triton on Sept. 14, 2017.
“We beat a team that hadn’t been beaten yet,” Simmons said. “That’s something to be proud of and celebrate and we need to take that confidence into Thursday’s match.”
Senior Gracyn Slaughter was a leader all over the court for the Hawks (5-3, 5-3 TCSC), tallying a double-double, with 12 kills, 35 digs and one ace on 14 service points.
Senior Bethany Norris led Triton offensively with 16 kills.
Junior Reagan Bradham also had a double-double with 35 assists, 13 digs and two aces on 13 service points.
Carleigh Hemby had seven kills, one assist and two digs. Breonna McNeill had four kills, two assists, one block and seven digs. Olivia Godwin had three kills, one assist and four digs. Bradham had one kill. Makayla Norris had one assist, 32 digs and two aces on seven service points. Sydney Morrison had 10 digs and one ace on seven service points. Bethany Norris had five digs and one ace on five service points. Madeline Scott had five digs and held serve for three points. Chelby Pascale had two digs and held serve for two points.
Simmons was pleased that all 10 available players saw playing time and all 10 contributed to the win.
“That’s how I always like my teams to be,” Simmons said. “They all have something to contribute.”
Halfway through the season, Simmons moved Slaughter from libero to outside hitter and moved Makayla Norris to libero. Both girls benefited from the change, but so has the team as a whole.
“When (Simmons) first told me during practice that I wasn’t going to be the libero for the next game (Dec. 3 against Harnett Central), I was upset and then I thought I wasn’t going to play and then she put me at outside,” Slaughter said. “And then the next day, we had a game and I was playing outside. I didn’t do amazing, but after couple of games, I got to where I needed to be and I loved the change.”
“Having G (Slaughter) at the front with me is really fun,” Bethany Norris said. “We’re always laughing and joking around and I know that when I can’t get the ball, she’ll put it down.”
Junior Gianna Silvestri had 23 kills and senior Ali Polidori had eight kills, 31 assists and two aces on 12 service points to lead the Vikings. (8-2, 8-1).
After dropping a competitive first set, Triton struggled in the second set to fall behind 2-0.
“Coach Simmons told us that she didn’t want us to win this for herself, she wanted us to win this for us,” Bethany Norris said. “That kind of turned us around and we started to step up.”
“We all put our hearts into the last three sets,” Slaughter said. “We quit getting into those holes like we normally do. We dig big holes and we can’t get out of them, and we didn’t do that those last three sets. That helped a lot.”
The third set was close until, holding a 15-12 lead, Triton finished the set on a 10-2 run.
Triton opened the fourth set on a 7-2 run, but Union Pines answered with an 8-2 run to take the lead. The teams exchanged leads until, with Union Pines leading 16-14, Triton went on an 11-4 run to close out the set, with a Slaughter kill, assisted by Bradham, tying the match 2-2.
The decisive fifth set was close throughout. With Union Pines holding a 13-12 lead, a Slaughter kill, assisted by McNeill, a Viking error and a Bethany Norris kill, assisted by Bradham, ended the match in Triton’s favor.
“I knew that I needed Bethany out there on that court,” Simmons said. “When she was going in and Breonna was coming out (with a change in rotation after Slaughter’s kill), I just told her, ‘You’ve got this. Next two points are yours.’ And she became somebody we could rely on and our go-to person when we needed to score.”
“She told me that I had this and to be big up there,” Bethany Norris said. “And I told her that I was going to do it for her.”
After the match, Triton honored six seniors: Madeline Scott, Chelby Pascale, Sydney Morrison, Gracyn Slaughter, Breonna McNeill and Bethany Norris.
Triton also won the junior varsity match 2-0.
Triton travels to county and conference rival Harnett Central (7-3, 7-2) and Union Pines is at home against conference foe Western Harnett on Thursday to end the regular season.
“I’m hoping we go into Thursday with an open mind and not being too cocky,” said Bethany Norris. “I’m hoping that we bring home the win, because I know that we can. We know how they play and it’s going to be a very good game, I think.”