Down 23-13 in the third set of a Greater Neuse River 4A volleyball match against South Johnston on Tuesday, Cleveland’s volleyball team called on some of the mental toughness that coach Shelley Johnston has worked to instill in her team.
The Rams scored nine straight points to pull within 23-22 and then battled their way to a 28-26 victory in the game that paved the way for a 3-1 conference win.
It was Senior Day for the Rams, and one of those seniors, Marina Roe, helped make sure that they went out winners in their final home match of the regular season.
“I am definitely proud of my team,” Roe said. “We came back in the (third game) like we needed to do. I am so glad that no one gave up and we all pushed through and played with our hearts.
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“It definitely helped with our mental game coming through in the third game. We all came together as a team and I’m really happy with the win.”
Cleveland improved 13-5, 5-4 in the Greater Neuse and likely locked up third place in the regular season. The Rams were tied with Corinth Holders for third place coming into the South Johnston match, and Corinth Holders faced first-place Triton (unbeaten in the league) in its final regular-season match.
“That was a huge comeback (in the third game) and I am so proud of how well they did mentally,” Johnston said. “We have been working on that and on conditioning in practice. The girls are learning. It’s a process. I am very proud of my team for overcoming that deficit in the third game. That was a huge deficit.”
South Johnston dropped to 14-16 and 6-3 and is still likely to finish second in the conference in the regular season.
Cleveland won the opening game 25-11. The Trojans came back and won the second game 25-20 and appeared on the way to victory in the third game.
Then came the improbable comeback by Cleveland.
Cleveland had a balanced offense with junior Hannah Neville leading the way with nine kills. Roe and junior Alexis Ivey had eight kills each and junior Wallie Driggers had six kills, two block and five aces.
For South Johnston, junior Emma Blackman had 18 kills and senior Madison Byrd had 12.
The teams split their regular-season matches, each winning on their home floor.
Cleveland coach Johnston said that the emotion of Senior Night had an impact on the outcome.
“They were very motivated because they don’t want the seniors to lose on Senior Night,” Johnston said. “I definitely think that was a huge factor in the win.”