CLAYTON — Garner has steamrolled its opposition in Greater Neuse River 4A volleyball for three seasons.
When the Trojans faced a tough road match against a good team Thursday, they made it look easy again.
Kristen Powell had 17 kills and Courtney Weathersbee 21 assists as the Trojans topped Clayton 25-18, 25-21, 25-17, picking up their 41st straight regular-season conference victory. They also swept the season series against their longtime rivals.
Garner improved to 11-3 on the season, 7-0 in conference play; Clayton fell to 6-7 and 5-3.
“We’ve been really solid in our conference matches this year,” Garner coach Jason Boyette said. “No complaints. We’ve dropped some nonconference matches, but we’ve done what we’re supposed to do in (the) conference so far.”
The Trojans’ most recent conference loss was a three-set defeat at Harnett Central on Sept. 22, 2009.
“After that first set, when we got down so early, I told the girls the key was going to be limiting mistakes,” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “If you make mistakes against a good team like Garner, they’re going to make you pay.
“It was a valiant effort. I just told the girls to swing. Ashley Murphy had a great game. But hey, Garner is good. They’re not undefeated in the conference for nothing.”
Garner jumped to a 6-0 lead with senior libero Elena Mast serving and was never challenged in the first set.
“We played really well as a team today,” Mast said. “Communication is a big part of the game, and we do a really good job with that. I think this is one of our best matches.
“Clayton is one of the better teams in our conference, and when we play them we know it’s going to be a higher-scoring game.”
The Comets led most of the early part of the second set before the Trojans took the lead at 15-14 with Kelsey Bryan serving.
“We had a little trouble in the second set after Nyah (Hines) tweaked her shoulder and we had Maddie (Stewart) in a position she doesn’t usually play,” Boyette said. “But once we got things worked out, we were fine.”
In the final set, Garner took the lead at 3-2 and stretched it to 19-10 before coasting home.
“I thought we were good,” Weathersbee said. “The floor was slippery, but we were able to keep it together. Clayton gave us a good challenge.
“We struggled a little bit in the second set, but we just decided we had to step it up. When we do that, we win. We’ve always been a really close team, and that makes our chemistry so much better.”
Clayton has beaten everyone but Garner and West Johnston during its past eight matches after a rough start in nonconference play.
“The whole match, we didn’t play like ourselves,” Clayton co-captain Nicole Bond said. “We got our points from bump, set and hit. We didn’t get any easy points. We knew if we were going to pass the ball over the net it was going to come back down straight. We just didn’t play our game.
“Garner is a great team. I think people choke and get nervous against them. We didn’t do the simple things right. We’ve just got to stay together as a team. We can come back from this.”