The South Johnston volleyball team knows it has a lot to play for this season and the Trojans demonstrated a laser-like focus Tuesday night on the road against Smithfield-Selma.
South Johnston looked sharp in a sweep over the Spartans 25-7, 25-10, 25-7 to collect its sixth consecutive win overall and fifth straight in the Two Rivers 3A Conference.
With the win, the Trojans enter the second half of conference play just one game behind league-leading Triton, who dealt South Johnston its only conference blemish thus far.
“We are not satisfied with the way we played (against) Triton—that’s what has sparked this whole run that we’re on right now,” said South Johnston coach Matthew Adams. “We’re playing with confidence. We’ve got good leadership.
Everything was all aces during the first two games Tuesday night as South Johnston registered 11 service aces over its first 35 match points of the night.
In the first set alone, Madison and Reagan Byrd each provided the Trojans with three aces apiece and Kathryn Lee added yet another one as the Spartans were forced to scramble to cover the court.
“You’ve got to give them credit for their serving,” Smithfield-Selma coach Chase Crocker said. “They put us in spots where we had to move and our serve-receive really has to do some improving.”
“We’ve got to get that first pass. If we could pass the ball, we could compete with anybody. But we really struggle right now with that first pass.”
That lack of touch didn’t allow the Spartans to create many good scoring opportunities for their hitters.
Morgan Eatmon led Smithfield-Selma (3-13, 0-5) with three kills and Karlie McCullers added a pair for the Spartans, who entered the match hoping to sustain some momentum from its previous night’s victory at Southern Wayne.
“We won last night 3-0 so I’m a little disappointed in the energy tonight,” said Crocker. “I told the team that after a 3-0 win against a team they’re supposed to beat, they should have come in here with a little momentum and energy. We had a big crowd tonight but we could never hear the crowd because we could never get into rhythm.”
If the service game was most crucial to South Johnston’s success in the first two games, its passing was the key to the third set.
Kathryn Lee opened the set up with three consecutive assists to Emma Blackman and totaled eight such assists in the final set of the night.
Blackman connected for five of her team-high eight kills in the final set and outside hitter Sarah Pierce added three kills herself.
“I thought our passing tonight was really good and it gave us options,” said Adams. “When you pass the ball well and you serve the ball well, you can play well.”
Lee ended the night with 17 assists to seven different hitters.
Adams applauded his team’s focus as it was set to start the second half of conference play Thursday night with a huge rematch against Triton.
“We realize that we’ve got a good chance to win a conference championship so it’s night in, night out whoever we’re playing, we want to play our best,” Adams said. “I stress on every timeout, in between games before the game, no matter what’s on the other side of the net, we always want to play South Johnston volleyball. We want to control the ball, play offense as well as we can.”