WENDELL — Corinth Holders and Erwin Triton, two defending conference champions thrown into the new Two Rivers 3A Conference by realignment, met Tuesday with first place in the Two Rivers on the line.
After the dust settled, Triton was in its usual position – alone atop the conference standings.
The Hawks (9-2, 4-0 Two Rivers 3A), winners of 12 straight conference championships, defeated Corinth Holders 25-14, 25-19, 25-18 in front of a loud crowd of Pirates fans.
Corinth Holders (10-2, 4-1), the Northern Carolina 2A Conference champion last season going 20-7, moved up to the 3A classification this season. The Pirates fell behind in each set against perennial power Triton but kept battling back.
“We made a lot of mistakes that we can correct,” Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley said. “We were mentally tough. When we got down, we came back. But we have been working all year on not getting down and playing tough from the beginning.
“I called a timeout at 8-0, 8-1 and 9-3 in the three games. From there, it seemed to get better. But it shouldn’t get to that point. Triton’s attack was great in the front row, and we tried a lot of different looks. I thought our defense … we dug the ball really well. We had trouble at the net putting the ball away.”
Triton, which was in the Eastern Carolina 3A last season, was led by Barbara Godwin and Breanna Graham at the net and libero Carrington Royals on defense.
Godwin had 12 kills and three blocks, and Graham had 10 kills and one block.
In the first set, Corinth Holders pulled within 11-9 before Triton reeled off five straight points to regain control of the set. Godwin had a kill and a service ace and Graham had a kill during the pivotal 5-0 run.
In the second set, Triton led just 17-16 but scored four straight points – two on kills by Graham – to push the advantage to 20-16. Graham had a block and another kill down the stretch as the Hawks held off the Pirates to go 2-0.
Triton was in charge for most of the third set, breaking away from a 2-2 tie to go up 9-3. The Hawks led by at least four points the rest of the way.
“We’ve had two seniors out with injuries,” said Triton’s Godwin, also a senior. “It’s been really important for me to step up in those crucial situations. Today, I felt like Breanna also stepped up really well. I had the blocking, and she had the hitting. We worked as a team on that.
“I was getting a little nervous when it was 17-15 (in the second set). I knew we would pull it out. It’s a mental thing. Sometimes, you just have to get a bump, set and kill and you will get your energy back up. But it’s important when you have those big leads at the beginning of the set to maintain them. I think that has been one of our weaknesses.”
Veteran Triton coach Wendy Gaines said her team played well, particularly on defense.
“As far as the complete match, this is probably one of the best ones we have played lately,” Gaines said. “I was real pleased with our performance. We really stepped up our defense. We have been working hard on thought. My libero, I can’t say enough about her. She was digging it up back there. I told her yesterday at practice that she is the quarterback back there and she has got to let everybody know where they need to be. … She did really well with that tonight.”
Corinth Holders was led by seniors Lindsay Alford and Cole Narron with six kills each.
Riley said the Pirates’ goal is still to battle for the conference championship.
“If we can fine tune some things and be detail-oriented on some things, I feel like we have a good shot to go Triton at the end of the year and it mean something,” Riley said. “We have to forget about what happened tonight and learn from it and move on.
“Our goal is to win the conference. We realize that is a big goal coming into a conference with Triton. … In this conference, every match is a battle. If we come out of this conference and make the playoffs, I feel like that would be an accomplishment in itself.”