The first three sets of Tuesday’s Greater Neuse River 4A Conference volleyball match between Clayton and East Wake did not turn out like they started. The team leading each of those sets in the late stages ended up on the losing end.
The trend mattered less to Clayton, which has heard mention after mention of one number from head coach Marlon Lee in the past couple of weeks. That number being 75, the number of points a team must compile in order to get the win.
The Comets were the first to that number Tuesday, rallying from deficits in the first two sets on the way to a 26-24, 25-23, 22-25, 25-17 victory over East Wake in a matchup of teams still eyeing a conference title.
Clayton (6-2 overall, 4-1 conference) moved a notch ahead of the Warriors on that front. East Wake fell to 3-2 in the GNRC (3-4 overall).
“We were up 2-0 (in sets) on Knightdale and up 24-20 in the third (set) earlier in the season and lost,” Lee said. “The key is you’ve got to get to 75 points, not 74, not anything else. Seventy-four isn’t enough to win, it takes 75.
“When we stopped hurting ourselves with missed serves and things like that, we played much better.”
The first three sets of the match featured plenty of the kind of mistakes teams don’t like to make on either side of the net: the unforced kind. Missed serves, balls into the net, wide or long kill attempts, you name it.
“We gave away too many points and weren’t able to put them away in the first two games,” said East Wake coach Keauna Vinson. “With the amount of mistakes we made, I just don’t feel like we got beat. We gave away too many points.”
East Wake led by as many as three points late in the first set with the attacks of Angel Rizor and Kianna Wynn leading the way but a serve into the net, a rotation violation and a miscommunication that let a ball drop on the Warriors’ side of the net helped Clayton pull even at 24 all.
Clayton’s Kennedy Paine served out the final two points of the match for a 26-24 victory.
East Wake led by seven (13-6) in the second set and later held a 21-18 lead. However, the Comets shined late in that set with points on a kill by Brianna Davis, a service ace from Olivia Owens and a double block at the net. Those plays set up Brittany Ochsner’s tip over the net for the 25-23 win.
“We would make one or two plays and then see them run four, five, six or seven points,” Lee said. “Then we started to settle down and put points together.”
East Wake dominated most of the third set with the net play of Wynn, Rizor and Jordan Moss keeping the Comets on the defensive. Clayton did manage to pull even at 22, but the Warriors prevailed on a long rally point, Rizor registered a point-winning block and a Comet kill attempt sailed long to ring up a 25-22 win for East Wake.
“When you’re up and you have a lead, that’s when you have to finish strong,” Vinson said. “Sometimes it takes that something extra to finish off a set.”
East Wake led 8-2 in the fourth set before the Comet offense found its groove, mixing in solid serves with a varied attack at the net. Megan Homestead had a service run that took the Comets from down 10-8 to a 13-10 lead midway of the set. Clayton never trailed again.
“Bailey Perdue did a nice job of pushing the ball to our hitters,” Lee said. “We mixed up our attack and were able to get the deciding points in just what was really a tight game.
“East Wake isn’t a team that we’re going to be able to bang away hitting the ball with point after point.”