If it had been a football game, the old adage of which team had the ball last would win would have most certainly applied. As it was, when Corinth Holders and South Johnston squared off in a Two Rivers 3A Conference volleyball match, it was the team that put together the final run of the contest that would come out on top.
The Trojans, down six points late in the fourth set and facing a potential deciding fifth set, reeled off a 9-1 run to rally take the fourth set and the 3-1 win (17-25, 25-20, 25-16 and 25-23) over the Pirates in a match defined by scoring streaks from both sides.
Down 22-16 in the fourth set, South Johnston coach Matthew Adams appealed to his team that it was time for one last push.
With sophomore Reagan Byrd serving the ball, the Trojans summoned one last run thanks to an ace from Byrd, a kill from Madison Byrd, a pair of blocks from Emma Blackman and a pair of unforced errors from the hosts.
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“Right there at the end, I said to the team that they had been on a lot of runs tonight but we had been on a lot of runs too. … We can do one right here,” Adams recalled telling his team. “It’s all one point at a time; it’s all about momentum. Tonight, we got it at the right time.”
The Pirates used a six-point scoring burst and twice posted four consecutive points on the scoreboard as well to pull away to take the opening set 25-17.
South Johnston turned the tables on Corinth Holders to even the second set thanks to a pair of 8-0 runs from the Trojans, highlighted by service aces from Emma Blackman, Madison Byrd and Kathryn Lee.
South Johnston maintained the momentum for much of the third set as well with Blackman starting to exert her dominance in the middle of the court.
“There was at least two times that they had eight-point runs,” Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley said. “I told the team that we had to stop those runs and extend our runs but we just couldn’t get the ball over the net at times.”
The Pirates ended the match with 16 attack errors, seven receiving errors and six service errors.
Also influential during the visitors’ prolonged stretches of success was their service game. South Johnston not only benefited from nine service aces but also took Corinth Holders out of its game, limiting the ease at which they could transition the ball to leading hitters Jamie Turner (13 kills), Haley Stancil (seven) and Katelyn Leach (six).
“Serving the ball in makes a difference,” Adams said. “When you’re trying to come from behind, it makes all the difference in the world. I thought our serving tonight was probably the best that it’s been all year. We got them out of their system a lot with our serves and we got a lot of aces out of our serves so it put pressure on them.”
On attack, setter Kathryn Lee connected most frequently with middle hitter Emma Blackman as the junior pounded away 20 kills in what Adams described as being “her most complete game yet.”
Lee finished with 36 assists while Madison Byrd and Selena Flores both totaled 10 kills for the Trojans (6-3 overall, 1-1 in conference).
Riley, who credited South Johnston’s hustle on defense and execution on offense as being key, knows his squad has what it takes to compete in the conference, as evidenced by its 9-2 run to open the fourth set.
Riley also, however, pointed to the Pirates needing to recognize different times in the match when it might be more important to get the ball over the net safely instead of going for a difficult winner.
“We’re working on trying to play smarter in stretches,” said Riley. “We’re trying to tighten up the mistakes and I guess that’s part of the process for having a young team.”
Junior Kelly Ammons led Corinth Holders (4-4, 1-1) with 19 assists and 16 digs.