The first two sets were almost too easy. But host Southeast Raleigh wasn’t going down without a fight against Knightdale on Thursday night.
While the Bulldogs showed some bite in the end, the Knights held them off, sweeping Southeast Raleigh 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 26-24) in Greater Neuse River Conference action.
Knightdale dominated the first two sets, as the visitors claimed several free points off miscues from Southeast Raleigh. The final set was a back-and-forth battle that went down to the very end.
The Knights (6-4, 4-0 GNRC) started Set 3 off in dominate fashion, getting consecutive kills from Nia Singletary and Deiara Frye, followed by an ace from senior Heaven Jarrell to take a quick 3-0 lead. To their credit, Southeast Raleigh (1-6, 1-2) did not fold. The Bulldogs rallied, eventually taking a two-point lead, 18-16, late into the set, forcing Knightdale coach Ross Fields to use a timeout.
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Southeast Raleigh still had the momentum out of the break, taking another two-point lead moments later after a kill from Tyra Burt. The Bulldogs left the door open for a Knights’ comeback when a serve went into the net. Knightdale tied the set at 22-22 after an ace from Jarrell before taking a one-point lead.
Knightdale went ahead two after a kill at the net from Singletary. Southeast Raleigh had one more push left, tying the game at 24, but one last kill from Singletary and a tip at the net by Haley McCall would do the Bulldogs in.
“They (Southeast Raleigh) got themselves in a rhythm and we weren’t able to get those free points we had been getting,” Fields said. “We decided at the end, we called that timeout, we regrouped and went back to what we do well.”
Knightdale took advantage of errors by Southeast Raleigh in the first two sets, cruising to easy wins. Once the Bulldogs cut down on those errors, the Knights had to work a little bit harder for the win.
“It’s just the little things that we have to take care of,” Bulldogs coach Tammy Lackey said. “We were hustling and talking (on the floor), we just have to do more of that. We are a new team, just developing a chemistry and learning to trust each other.”
With Southeast Raleigh gaining some momentum, and confidence, Fields called a timeout to stop the bleeding. The Bulldogs had a two-point lead and were gaining. Fields got his team together and gave them a simple message.
“It was like, hey, fundamentals,” Fields said. “We didn’t need to do anything fancy, just put it up, put it down and let’s go home.”
They said it
“Credit them. They came out and they fought,” Fields said. “They battled us. They could have just died, but they wanted to fight … good.”
Three who mattered
Nia Singletary, Knightdale: The senior was the difference-maker on the floor, causing all kinds of problems for the Bulldogs.
“She does everything I ask her,” Fields said. “She digs everything, she is my No. 1 hitter. She’s a leader, she fights and battles.”
Heaven Jarrell, Knightdale: Another senior on the Knights roster, Jarrell was a problem at the net all evening. She also had some key service points for Knightdale in the final set. She finished with 11 kills and no errors.
“She is finally coming into a rhythm,” Fields said. “That’s a big thing for her. Early in the season she was struggling with her consistency and we’ve been training and training her. Now we are starting to harness all that power and ability that she has, and she is starting to put that pain on the other team.”
Lainey Anderson, Knightdale: Anderson set the table for her teammates with 36 assists and four aces in the three sets.
By the numbers
14: Number of kills by Singletary.
54: Total number of digs by the Knights
73.3%: The kill percentage at the net by Jarrell, who finished 11 of 15 kills.
Whenever Singletary of Jarrell got their hands on the ball, good things happened for Knightdale. Jarrell completed 73.3 percent of her kills, while Singletary was 51.9 percent.
The Bulldogs have some talent, no question. But Lackey said this is a new team still learning to trust each other. The communication on the floor and trust are two areas in volleyball that are critical to a team’s success.
Knightdale will step out of conference on Monday, traveling to Middle Creek, before returning home with consecutive league matches against Garner and East Wake.
“Garner is a big school, traditionally very strong,” Fields said. “East Wake, that’s a rival. Records and everything go out the door.”