Angel Rizor had one thought on her mind during Clayton’s timeout in the fifth set with the Warriors facing match point: Dominate.
When play resumed, East Wake’s 6-foot-1 junior attacked the ball as it hung above the net, smashing it onto Clayton’s half of the court. The play completed an improbable, 3-2 comeback win for the Warriors (7-25, 15-25, 25-16, 25-13, 15-13).
“You just gotta take control, you gotta hit it straight down,” said Rizor, who single-handedly took over the final set.
The win allowed East Wake to overtake Clayton in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference standings, now that the Warriors own the head-to-head tie breaker.
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The match seemed far from the Warriors’ reach early on. Hyped for a breast cancer awareness “Pink-Out” in their home gym, the Comets (10-6, 8-4) poured it on the Warriors (8-6, 8-4) early in the contest.
Clayton was methodical in its first-set dismantling of East Wake. At that point it seemed like the Comets would make quick work of things.
It was more of the same in the second set. Although the Warriors showed a few fleeting signs of life, the Comets were led by more stellar play at the net by Brianna Davis and Brittany Oschner en route to the 10-point decision.
That’s when the pressure set in for the Comets, according to junior Chesley Neptune.
“I think the stress got to everyone’s head,” Neptune said. “We had a hard time working together.”
Comets head coach Marlon Lee was not available for an interview following the match.
While the Comets were in a pinch, the Warriors were simultaneously undergoing a significant strategic shift. Before the third set, East Wake head coach Keauna Vinson decided to go from a 4-2 formation to a 5-1.
The change, which made Ciera Williams more of a defensive player and less of an attacker, made all the difference for the Warriors.
“I told them, ‘When that ball comes over the net, we want it – eat it,’” Vinson said.
Rizor took the message to heart.
Suddenly, in the tinkered formation, Rizor became a one-woman wrecking crew. Her presence at the net was overwhelming as she blocked and spiked any ball that came her way to help the Warriors get back on track with a third-set win.
Rizor’s reign of terror continued – actually intensified – in the fourth set. Her spike to finalize the game contacted the finger of Clayton’s Kennedy Paine and forced her out of action.
That play illustrated the message Rizor and the rest of the Warriors wanted to send the Comets heading into the tie-breaker set to 15.
“We had to work hard for it,” Rizor said.
Clayton’s internal struggles persisted in the final set, as the team misfired on three serves. Rizor only got more relentless.
Vinson recalls what she told her team during the timeout at match point.
“I just told them we’re one point away from second place,” Vinson said. “Just get the serve in, and when the ball comes over, dominate.”