South Johnston’s varsity volleyball team improved to 2-0 on the season by rallying from a 2-0 deficit to win in five sets at rival Triton on Thursday. Individual set scores were 21-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-23 and 15-11.
“In the first two sets, nothing against them (Triton), but I thought they were getting some breaks,” said South Johnston coach Matthew Adams. “They were being aggressive and when you’re being aggressive sometimes you get stuff to go your way. But the girls just hung in there. I didn’t know how they would respond. On Monday, we won 3-0 (against Princeton), so we hadn’t lost a set yet. Then we came in here and lost the first two. I don’t know. This is just a different group.
“People that watched us play on Monday night said that there’s just something that seems different. They like each other, they love the game and they want to work hard for each other. And it showed tonight. I’m just proud of the girls. We’ve got great senior leadership. We have the pieces that we need to be a great team and we’re going to keep working and keep fighting.”
The win is just the Trojans’ second against Triton during Adams’ tenure.
“I’ve been on the receiving end of some five-set losses to Triton, so it’s just nice to have one go our way,” Adams said. “This is the second time we’ve beaten Triton in my 12-year career here. They know it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for me. It’s a big deal for them. I’m hoping the momentum carries for us.”
Triton coach Wendy Simmons cited costly mistakes as a major factor in the loss.
“Except for the first two sets,” Simmons said. “But after that, it just went downhill. Missing serves. Bad passes. Hitting errors. We played two sets kind of like we need to be. Of course, South made fewer mistakes in those last three sets. I don’t think they had many serving errors and they were passing the ball well and hitting the ball well.”
Sophomore Katon Blackmon had a match-high 14 kills and junior LeeAnna Hines had 12 kills and a match-high six blocks to lead the Trojans (2-0) at the net.
Five different players tallied in double digits defensively for South, led by freshman libero Kennedy Byrd, with 23 digs. Kandis Adams had 16 digs, Blackmon had 13, Carmen Keene had 12 and Jessica Johnson had 11.
Adams had six kills, one assist and one ace on four service points. Jenna Brown had four kills, one assist and two digs. Carlye Durham had two kills, one assist and two digs. Savannah Hines had two kills and one assist. Byrd had one kill, one assist and one ace on eight service points. Keene had a co-match-high 21 assists and one ace on 11 service points. Johnson had 12 assists and one ace on 11 service points. Blackmon had one assist and one ace on eight service points. Callie Sutton had one assist and six digs. LeeAnna Hines had one dig and held serve for five points.
Sophomore Addie Matthews had 12 kills and senior Hannah Jackson had 10 kills and one block to lead the Hawks (1-1) up front.
Ella Layn had eight kills, a co-match-high 21 assists, nine digs and a match-high two aces on 11 service points. Evie Pollard had seven kills, four blocks, six digs and two aces on four service points. Tyler Grace Gamblin had five kills, five assists, one block and two digs and held serve for six points. Breighanna Hobbs had three kills, 15 assists and three digs and held serve for one point. Alexis Howard had three kills, three assists and 18 digs and held serve for nine points. Gracyn Slaughter had two kills, one assist, a match-high 30 digs and two aces on 10 service points. Sarah Phillips had one assist and five digs. Pollard had six digs and two aces on four service points. Jackson had six digs and one ace on four service points.
Each side was missing a player, as South’s Paige Toler was out with an injury and Triton’s Bethany Norris was out of town.
Service errors were a major stumbling block for Triton last season. The old nemesis showed up again Thursday, as the Hawks missed a combined 15 serves.
“So that’s what we work on,” Simmons said. “Make it better.”
“I really think their serving was what put us on the defensive in the first two sets,” Adams said. “They missed more serves in the third, fourth and fifth and obviously that takes some pressure off of our serve receive and probably dejects them.”
Triton was strong early and South struggled with mistakes as the Hawks took the first two sets. But as the match went on, South continually improved and miscues mounted for the Hawks as the momentum steadily moved to the Trojans’ favor.
“In the first couple of sets, a mistake here and there and the faces were dropping and the body language was not good,” Adams said. “You can only play for the very next point and what you did on the previous point doesn’t affect the next one unless you allow it to. We got better about body language and just picking each other up whenever we made some mistakes toward the end.”
South jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the fifth set before Triton rallied to cut it to two, at 11-9. But the Trojans finished the match on a 4-2 run, with a Triton error ending the match.
South Johnston also won the junior varsity match 2-0.
Both teams will be participating in tournaments Saturday. South Johnston will be at the Trojan Tournament at Harnett Central, starting at 10 a.m. Triton will be at Apex Friendship for a tournament starting at 8:30 a.m.
Triton hosts Fuquay-Varina on Monday and South Johnston is at Lee County on Tuesday before the two meet again at South Johnston on Thursday.