The Knightdale and East Wake volleyball teams have been in this situation before.
The Warriors have held leads in matches this season, only to watch them slip away. The Knights found themselves on the precipice of defeat against Clayton earlier this year, only to recover from a two-set deficit and emerge with a victory.
But neither expected the way their Greater Neuse River 4A Conference battle played out Tuesday. The Knights not only overcame a 2-0 deficit to equalize the match, but fought off a pair of match points and escaped the East Wake gym with a 3-2 triumph.
Knightdale improved to 7-6 overall and remained tied for first place in the GNRC with Southeast Raleigh, which knocked off conference co-leader Clayton. Knightdale and Southeast Raleigh top the league with 6-1 records, while Clayton dropped to sole possession of third with a 5-2 mark.
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East Wake tumbled to 3-6 overall and into a three-way tie for third with Harnett Central and West Johnston at 3-4 in the conference as the league approaches the second half of its schedule.
But the wrap-up to the first half of the schedule was an epic 15-25, 21-25, 25-17, 26-24, 16-14 thriller on the East Wake court.
Trailing 2-0 after an intense second-set outcome, the Knights began lifting themselves by their respective bootstraps.
Led by Heaven Jarrell, Nia Singletary and Delaney Vandergrift, Knightdale surged to a 20-9 lead and held off the Warriors for a 25-17 third-set victory to restore life to the bench and the boisterous Knightdale fan base.
Jarrell posted six of her 13 kills for the match in that set, and began to make her presence felt at the net, which would become more pronounced as the match continued.
Vandergrift added five assists and five service points, including three aces in the set, while Singletary added three kills, a dig and a pair of assists.
That victory fueled the Knights for the remainder of the match, which saw them fend off a late Warriors rally in the fourth set for a two-point win.
The teams exchanged the lead four times in the early stages of the fourth set until the Knights scored seven consecutive points, including three on aces by Sara Woodard, in grabbing a 13-8 advantage.
But the Warriors responded behind Ciera Williams, Haley Glover, Kianna Wynn and Tamira Knuckles to take a 16-15 lead.
Knuckles dished out a total of six assists, with Wynn on the receiving end for three kills, while Jordan Moss, Angel Rizor and Briana Holder added one each.
Glover and Williams provided five service points each in the set.
The Knights battled back for a 24-20 lead, only to see East Wake respond with a run to tie the set with ball in hand. Wynn boomed two of her kills during that run, while Glover served four of the points, including an ace.
But Glover’s serve with the set tied at 24-all sailed past the end line, and a Jarrell kill sent the match to the deciding set.
“We have trouble finishing matches,” said Warriors coach Keauna Vinson. “We’ve led several matches this year, but we just can seem to be able to finish them.
“Our upcoming practices for now will focus on having to play from behind – to show where we can make the good dig, the good pass and the good kills.”
That struggle to finish showed again in the fifth set, a see-saw affair that saw the Warriors grab a 10-5 lead before Knightdale leveled the score at 12-all on a kill and ace from Singletary, a block from Delara Frye and a kill by Kia Holden.
Wynn boomed home consecutive kills to give East Wake a 14-12 lead and double match point, but Jarrell answered by blasting three kills to seal the win.
The Warriors came out firing on all cylinders in the opening set, riding the service game of Jessica Pearce for a 5-0 lead and steadily extending it to the 25-15 victory.