Midway’s varsity volleyball team stunned visiting Sampson County and Southeastern Athletic 2-A Conference rival Clinton with a hot start and carried the momentum into a 3-1 win Thursday, avenging the Raiders’ lone conference loss and giving the Dark Horses their first conference defeat. Individual set scores were 25-11, 25-15, 23-25 and 25-9.
“We have focused since we lost (3-1 at Clinton on Sept. 14) on what to do differently to beat them the second time,” said Midway coach Susan Clark. “We changed our offense from a 5-1 to a 6-2. These girls have worked extremely hard this week. To the point that I think they worked too hard. They got so emotional, even at practice. They wanted this so bad. You can’t coach heart and desire and they had all of that tonight that we needed.”
Midway junior Blair Baggett said the Raiders were well-prepared to face Clinton.
“We were super excited to play Clinton today,” Blair Baggett said. “We had some butterflies and were a little nervous because we lost to them last time and Clinton has always been our rival, so it was just an exciting game to play today. And Miss Susan has been pushing us during the week this week. We were just excited. The whole team was just excited to play with each other and play against Clinton.”
“Moving into a new conference, we were glad we kept Clinton because we loved that rivalry,” added sophomore Morgan Naylor. “Our student support tonight was just awesome. We thank them so much for coming. It feels awesome. It’s just such a relief.”
The Raiders (11-4, 8-1 SAC) pulled into a tie for first place in the conference standings with the Dark Horses (13-4, 8-1) with the win.
Sophomore Morgan Hall had 13 kills and three blocks, both match-high totals Blair Baggett had nine kills and one block and sophomore Morgan Williams had nine kills to lead Midway’s scoring at the net.
Morgan Naylor recorded a double-double for the Raiders, with a match-high 26 assists and 10 digs.
“It’s very rewarding,” Naylor said. “I just feel so blessed. I thank God that he gave me the ability to play the sport I love so much. Just seeing (the hitters) hit every set I would give to them just feels awesome. It feels like it was a big accomplishment.”
Midway was stout defensively, led by 34 digs from sophomore libero McKenzie Williams. Senior Rylie Williams had 21 digs, Blair Baggett had 17 digs and Hall had 10 digs, for a double-double, to also lead Midway.
“That’s heart,” Clark said. “You can’t create those scenarios in practice and say, ‘Here’s what you do.’ Because you never know where it’s going and where it’s going to land. You just have to teach them to lay out and play until the whistle blows and give everything they’ve got. And they did that tonight.”
The service line was a major weapon for the Raiders, as they combined to hold serve for 66 points, including 16 aces. Baggett led all servers with five aces on 20 service points, Naylor had three aces on 17 service points and junior Jaycie Byrd had two aces on 14 service points to lead Midway.
“We did very good with our serves, I thought,” Blair Baggett said. “All of us did. Miss Susan, she makes us do that every practice. She pushes us to put it in spots and everything. I think that practicing that in practice really showed in the game today.”
“Our girls are really good about placing the serve,” Clark said. “They did their jobs.”
Rylie Williams had eight kills, one block and four aces on seven service points. Leah Brannon had six kills and two digs. Alyssa Hargrove had one kill and four digs. Byrd had 15 assists and five digs. McKenzie Williams had one assist and held serve for three points. Morgan Williams had two digs. Hall had two aces on three service points.
Senior Blythe Jackson had six kills, junior Abby Batchelor had four kills and two blocks and senior Sydney Pennell had 14 assists and held serve for six points to lead Clinton.
Clark said the packed house and loud home crowd helped fuel the Raiders in the match.
“The crowd makes a big difference,” Clark said. “I appreciate our community coming out and supporting. They have to realize that our girls truly play hard for them. They fed off of the crowd and just did everything they were supposed to do to make sure we came out on top.”
Midway opened the first set with five unanswered points, as part of an early 7-1 run. The Raiders dominated the rest of the set, which ended with a Morgan Williams kill, assisted by Naylor.
“That (a hot start) was really important,” Hall said. “Because we lost a game to them and we had started terrible. We knew coming out we needed to start good and start hitting spots that we knew we had to hit because we knew that it would eventually lead us up to winning.”
The second set was close early, but with the score tied 6-6, Midway went on a 19-9 run to finish the set, which ended on a Clinton error.
With the score tied 9-9 in the third set, Clinton went on a 7-1 run to take the lead, but Midway responded with an 8-2 run to tie the set 18-18. With the score tied 22-22, Clinton went on a 3-1 run, closing the set on a Jackson kill, assisted by Pennell.
“I think some of us started to get a little tired and thought we had it in the bag, so we settled down,” Blair Baggett said. “But you can’t settle down until you finish the game.”
Clinton started the fourth set with four unanswered points, all on Midway errors. But Midway suddenly caught fire again, going on a 25-5 run, capped by a Rylie Williams ace, to end the match.
Midway also won the junior varsity match 2-1. Much like the varsity squads, the two JV teams are also tied atop the conference standings, having given each other their only conference losses.
Midway is at conference opponent West Bladen on Tuesday.
“I think we need to take this energy and just keep it up,” Naylor said. “Keep going until playoffs, because playoffs are right around the corner. If we keep this energy up, I feel like we can do very well and go far.”