Trailing two sets to none, East Wake volleyball coach Keauna Vinson reminded her players of what they had worked on in practice all week: perfection.
“I told them they had to be more perfect,” she said.
The Warriors (6-4, 6-6 Greater Neuse River 4A) responded with three sets of thorough consistency, never conceding more than four consecutive points to their opposition, to execute the comeback win (28-30, 17-25, 25-15, 25-18, 15-8) over league rival Southeast Raleigh (7-3, 7-8).
An injury to the Bulldogs’ Tyra Burt aided the rally, removing one of Southeast Raleigh’s key players for the majority of the final three games. With East Wake leading in 21-14 in the third set, Burt – who had six kills and two aces at the time – went down with a right leg injury and did not return.
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Southeast Raleigh coach Lisa Calero immediately felt the impact of Burt’s absence on her team.
“She (fills) pretty big shoes ... and some of the girls were afraid of filling those shoes,” Calero said. “It was just a downhill spiral from there.”
East Wake took four of the final five points in the third set, then ripped off five consecutive points midway through the fourth set to take a decisive 17-9 lead.
After cruising to the 25-18 match-tying win, two kills each from Tamira Knuckles and Haley Glover helped the Warriors snatch an 8-3 advantage in the fifth set. A mishit by Southeast Raleigh on the final volley gave East Wake the 15-8 victory.
“It’s the first time we’ve come from being down two games and won three in a row (to) come out with the win,” Vinson said. “It just determines that we ... can beat any team in our conference.”
A nearly hour-long first game set the tone for the competitive match. Southeast Raleigh went on a 17-6 run to take a 23-15 advantage, but a lengthy volley that went East Wake’s way jump-started the visitors’ furious rally to tie the match at 24-24. A back-and-forth exchange of points finally met an end when Burt’s kill won the game for the Bulldogs.
An 8-point run by Southeast Raleigh, highlighted by four Tiffany Dunham aces, broke a 13-13 tie and put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat toward victory in the second set.
Angel Rizor and Kianna Wynn finished with 10 and seven kills, respectively, for East Wake, which won its third straight match to hold on to fourth place in the Greater Neuse River Conference. The Warriors led fifth-place Harnett Central (5-5, 7-7) by a game and trailed Clayton (7-3, 9-5) and Southeast Raleigh, which dropped its third consecutive match, by one game after the match.
East Wake completed a season sweep of the Bulldogs, having won 3-1 at home earlier in September.
“We knew we had to dig deep because both teams were going to play hard,” said Vinson, “but we knew deep down that if we could take it from them the first time they came to us, we could definitely do it again.”