South Johnston’s varsity volleyball team scored a 3-1 win on the road against rival Triton on Tuesday. Individual set scores were 25-19, 18-25, 25-22 and 25-20.
“I don’t know what the lull was there in the second set,” said South Johnston coach Matthew Adams. “We got behind and then every time we’d get a run, we’d miss a serve or they’d get a big point. And then it was just kind of back-and-forth. We just came out with a little bit different fire and focus in the third set.
“Then we were just able to make some big plays and take advantage of when No. 10 (Carleigh Hemby) was on the back row or out of the game. She was hard to defend when she was on the front row, so we just tried to make some scoring runs when she was not a factor and that played in our favor.”
Despite the loss, Triton coach Wendy Simmons saw improvement from the team.
“A big improvement from last week, definitely,” Simmons said. “I feel like the things we’re working on in practice are starting to pay off and they are seeing what they’re capable of doing and hopefully will just continue to work hard and see the improvements, but see it for a whole set or even a whole match. Some of it’s the little things like missed serves or hitting errors. But it’ll get better. Hopefully we’re learning from this and I saw a lot of improvement in areas we’ve been working on in practice. So, that was a positive and encouraging to see.”
Junior Jordyn Brown had a match-high 12 kills and one block, senior Savannah Smith had nine kills and junior Caroline Tucker had seven kills and one block to lead the Trojans (3-2) offensively.
Senior Kennedy Byrd had a co-match-high 24 digs and senior Mackenzie Coats had 11 digs to lead South on defense.
“I don’t know how many digs Kennedy had, but it had to be a lot,” Adams said. “She was playing the ball with her arms and her hands. A lot of their swings can be kind of a flat trajectory toward the back of the court, so you have to change your hand position real fast and I thought our back row players did that effectively. Kennedy stands out to me with a lot of digs. Mackenzie Coats had some hustle plays for sure.”
Lannah Price had five kills, a match-high three blocks, six digs and one ace on nine service points. Hannah Beasley had four kills, 12 assists and four digs and held serve for three points. Dianna Boykin had three kills, two assists and two digs. Allie Stewart had 14 assists, one dig and one ace on eight service points. Byrd had three assists and one ace on nine service points. Smith had one assist and two digs. Grayson Johnson had one assist and one dig and held serve for one point. Laley Norman and Meagan Worley each had one assist and one dig. Brown had five digs and one ace on four service points. Laina Moore had three digs. Tucker had two digs. Tori James had one dig.
Sophomore Carleigh Hemby had eight kills and two blocks to lead the scoring for the Hawks (0-4).
“She just has to work on opening herself up a bit more and not always swing to the same place,” Simmons said. “And she’s working on that. But, as a sophomore, she’s come a long way and we’re hoping that she’ll continue to work hard and be an unstoppable hitter.”
Senior Reagan Bradham had a double-double, with a match-high 22 assists and 10 digs. Three more Hawks also tallied double digits on defense. Senior Makayla Norris matched Byrd’s match-high 24 digs, junior Ava Blackman had 15 digs and sophomore Stephanie Davis had 14 digs.
“We’ve been really up and down in the back row,” Simmons said. “Some of it’s experienced. Some of it’s not. I changed the defense this year, so we’re trying to get adjusted to that and I knew we might have to take a couple of hits here and there, but I think they’re buying into it and it’s getting better. They’ve just got to keep working on their skills.”
Grace Wilson had six kills and eight digs and served one ace. Chyna Massey had four kills and five digs. Korra Altman had four kills, three digs and two aces on five service points. Olivia Godwin had three kills, one assist, one block and two digs and led all servers with three aces on 10 service points. Bradham had one kill, one block and one ace on four service points. Blackman had one kill and held serve for three points. Hemby had one assist, six digs and one ace on five service points. Emma Stanley had four digs. Norris had one ace on nine service points.
The first set was close early, but, with South holding a 9-7 lead, a kill from Smith, assisted by Stewart, started the Trojans on an 8-0 that put South in control of the set. The Hawks rallied to cut the lead to five, at 24-19, but a kill from Brown, assisted by Boykin, ended the set.
The second set was also close early, until, with the score tied 8-8, Triton used a 4-0 run to take the lead. South kept it close, but Triton was able to hold on to take the set and tie the match 1-1.
The third set was closely contested from start to finish. With South holding a 23-22 lead, a Triton error and a Brown kill off of an overpass gave the Trojans the 2-1 lead.
South led the fourth set by as much as eight, at 18-10, but Triton rallied with an 8-3 run to cut the lead to three, at 21-18. But the Trojans finished the match on a 4-2 run, including three kills from Smith, all assisted by Stewart.
Adams cited a late dig from James, who did not enter the game until the fourth set, as a key play down the stretch.
“Tori came in and made probably the biggest hustle play of the game, diving right down here at the pole and getting the ball across the net that would have probably easily been a point for them,” Adams said. “You step in and make a big play when your number is called and that’s what being a team is all about.”
Triton travels to rival Midway on Wednesday before returning home to face Lee County on Thursday. South Johnston is at Johnston County rival Cleveland on Thursday.