With the race for playoff berths in Greater Neuse River 4A volleyball coming down to the wire, Clayton was badly in need of a win at West Johnston on Tuesday.
And this time, the Comets collected it with little trouble.
Kennedy Paine, the Comets’ only senior, served 10 straight points to give Clayton an 11-0 lead in the first set, and they cruised to a 25-8, 25-17, 25-22 victory and spoiled the Wildcats’ Senior Day.
The win improved Clayton to 11-6, 9-4 in GNRC play with only its Thursday match against visiting Southeast Raleigh remaining before conference tournament play starts Monday at West Johnston. West Johnston fell to 7-12, 5-8 before its Thursday regular-season finale against Harnett Central,
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“We really passed the ball well in the first two games,” said Clayton assistant coach Rich Haberkorn, who finished the match while head coach Marlon Lee was away with duties as a Smithfield town councilman. “When we pass the ball well, Kennedy can make good sets and our hitters can make the plays.
“In the last game we played a little more defensive. But when we’re the more aggressive team, we can usually stay on top.”
The two teams had played on Sept. 11 in Benson with the Comets winning 20-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-18.
“We didn’t have our original lineup in,” West Johnston coach Susan Bryant said. “We were trying to play the seniors tonight and let them get their playing time. They have been important to our team and we wanted to acknowledge them.
“We have to win our next match and then bring it back Monday. We just didn’t have a good night tonight.”
West never got close in the first set, despite three early kills from senior Hannah Cooper.
“I just looked for open spots and was able to find them,” Paige said. “We’re getting better as time goes on because we’re talking a lot more. We’re just trying to help each other stay up.”
The Wildcats led for part of the early going in the second, taking an 8-4 lead with Brooke Applequist on the serve before the Comets opened up a lead with seven straight serves from freshman Bailey Perdue.
“I think we played better at the end and pulled together,” West senior captain Charley Stephenson said. “We had a lot of jitters early and couldn’t really get our heads together. When we did we were a lot better.
“I’m sure we’re going to do a lot of running in practice tomorrow.”
The final set was West’s best, as the Wildcats tied the match at 18-18 at one point. But Megan Homestead’s steady service was key for the Comets, as she had set-high scoring runs of four point on two occasions.
“We just got comfortable and were more confident in this match,” Homestead said. “Our communication is better than we had in the first half of the season, and we’re a closer team now.”