CARY — Leah Blackley and her undersized Cary volleyball teammates know the only way they can win in the rugged Tri-9 Conference is by playing up to their taller rivals.
“We have to play scrappy and smart,” said Blackley, a 5-foot-10 senior. “We have to always be playing the block. You have to outsmart them when you don’t have the height. It’s been that way ever since I’ve been at Cary.”
But the Imps had a reprieve from craning their necks when they faced a young Athens Drive team that featured only one senior.
“I actually said when we got in the huddle, ‘I’m the biggest one out here,’ ” said Blackley cheerfully. “That never happens.”
Cary took advantage of a facing a team eye-to-eye for a change with a comfortable win in four games, 25-12, 22-25, 25-13 and 25-10.
The Imps improved to 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the Tri-Nine, while Athens Drive dropped to 2-8 and 1-6.
Six-footers in girls high school sports these days seem to grow on trees, but Cary coach Philip Goodloe said this is his ninth year coaching the Imps without finding a 6-footer planted in his backyard. Goodloe, who stands 6-3, says the only time he looks a player eye-to-eye is when he meets the opponent’s team captain in the pre-match huddle the officials call with coaches and team captains.
“I’d love to coach a 6-footer,” Goodloe said. “We had a girl who was almost 6-foot with her shoes on, but we’ve never had a legitimate 6-footer.”
Cary put away the first game easily enough when Blackley recorded six of her 12 kills. But in the second game the Imps let up and Athens Drive took advantage of the opening.
“We have to play with intensity,” Goodloe said. “When we’re in a groove, we can play with anybody.”
The Jaguars rallied from an 8-2 deficit to take a 9-8 lead. When they fell behind 13-10, they rallied again for a 14-13 edge.
Athens Drive’s Rachel Kinsey, a 5-9 junior, led the Jaguars with four of her eight kills in the second game.
“We have a young team and we’re trying to get them to trust each other and play together as a team,” said Athens Drive coach Jen Reeder. “We can play better than we did tonight.”
Raechel Brooks led Cary in the third game with five kills and added three more in the decisive fourth to finish with 12 kills overall.