GARNER — The streak is over.
Claytons volleyball team handed Garner its first loss to a conference opponent in nearly four years, winning a taut, hard-fought five-set match Thursday to end the Trojans Greater Neuse River 4A run at 60 consecutive victories.
You always hope it will be the next year, Garner coach Jason Boyette said of the streak-ender. You have to enjoy it while it lasts. You dont get opportunities like that for a while. All good conference strings come to an end.
Clayton (15-1, 9-1), which lost a five-set match to Garner this// season at home, won the first two sets 25-17 and 25-22. Garner (15-2, 9-1), which was playing without its top scorer, Kaasha Jefferies, who had 28 kills in the earlier meeting and is out with an injured left foot rallied during the next two sets to win 25-13 and 25-20.
It came down a fifth set again between the volleyball heavyweights. And it was a nail-biter that left both teams drained.
With the fifth set tied, Clayton scored three straight points to go ahead 10-7. The Comets led 13-10 and 14-11, but Garner pulled within 14-13.
Clayton coach Marlon Lee called a timeout and had a simple message for his team.
I told them in the last timeout, Lets just keep the ball in play. We dont have to do anything spectacular. If they make the mistake, let them make the mistake, Lee said. It was one hard point to win. Luckily, we got it.
The winner came when Megan Homestead made a two-handed return that found a hole in the middle of the Trojans defense. The Comets broke out in a celebration of the historic win, letting out screams of joy and hugging teammates and parents and friends who poured out of the stands.
It feels great, said Ashley Murphy, who had 11 kills for the Comets, sharing the team lead with fellow senior Ali Orringer. We came out with 100percent effort and more. We deserved this win. We really wanted it.
We won the first two sets and then we got over-excited. That fifth set, we just knew that we had to pick it up like we did in the first two sets because we knew they were going to bring it.
Garner had not lost to a conference opponent since Oct. 21, 2009, when the Trojans dropped a five-set match to Harnett Central in the tournament final. Since then, Garner won three straight league titles without losing to a Greater Neuse River 4A opponent.
Its a program win, Lee said. The girls persevered. We got up 2-0, but Garner, they fought. Jason (Boyette) is my buddy. We have been texting each other since the last time we played. He texted me before the Knightdale game on Tuesday and said, Dont mess it up now. Its a good friendly rivalry.
Seniors Brooke Kamphuis and Kelsey Bryan had 17 kills each to lead the Trojans.
Boyette said he was proud of the way his team fought back.
They werent going to give up, Boyette said. We did not play very well in the first two sets. We played much better in the third and fourth sets. The fifth set just went back and forth. We never got the momentum back. On that last point, she just hit it where we werent.