Two of Johnston County’s best volleyball teams squared off Thursday night in a match neither one had to play.
And the result was an early-season classic.
South Johnston senior Emma Blackman and new Princeton junior Daisey Eklund each put in dominant performances at the net as the visiting Trojans took a 25-23, 25-27, 25-16, 26-24 victory.
The win improved South — a member of the Two Rivers 3A to 3-0 on the season, all against county rivals — while the defending state 1A champion Bulldogs fell to 1-1 and had their seven-match winning streak ended.
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For South, the result avenged a five-set road loss of last Aug. 27 in the teams’ first meeting since 2012.
“This was a very important win,” said South coach Matthew Adams, whose team finished second in the Two Rivers last season. “They’re a quality program coming off the championship, and then you saw how great (Eklund) played.
“I had girls who made mistakes early in the match and came back to play better. I told them you can make up for all kinds of mistakes if you just focus on the next point. And I’m proud of how we did that tonight. It was a great competition and good quality volleyball.”
The teams will meet again on Thursday in Four Oaks.
With South leading 3-2 in the final set, Lily Allen served nine straight points — four of them aces — to give the Trojans a pad they would need to survive it 26-24.
They said it
“We saw South in the county jamboree last Thursday, and I knew they would be tough competition,” said Princeton coach Paige Renfrow, whose team has won 50 of its last 57 matches. “They’re a strong, solid team. They may be our toughest competition all season.
“I’m pleased Daisey’s family decided for her to come here. She’s a great asset to the team. She makes plays happen even if she’s not the one getting the attack or the first dig.”
Three who mattered
Emma Blackman, South Johnston: The senior had a team-high 12 kills along with seven blocks.
“Princeton is always competitive and I know a lot of the girls on their team,” Blackman said. “They certainly didn’t back down easily. It was a ‘pride’ thing.”
Lily Allen, South Johnston: The senior outside hitter had a team-high eight blocks along with serving runs of eight in the first set and nine in the fourth.
“We really worked hard,” Allen said. “The girls put the ball down really well. My serve isn’t always that strong, but it worked tonight. We knew Princeton was going to be tough, and they came out hard.”
Daisey Eklund, Princeton: The junior hitter had a game-high 14 kills with six blocks.
“My teammates made some really good sets tonight,” said Eklund, who played previously at Robert C. Byrd High in Clarksburg, W.Va. “I’ve gotten pretty good at jumping over the blocks. I don’t have the hardest hit, but I know where to place it.
“I knew Princeton was good, and I’ve been really impressed with our coach and the team.”
By the numbers
4: South Johnston players (Allen 8, Blackman 7, Makayla Tart 6, Selena Flores 6) with at least half a dozen blocks.
6: Blocks by Eklund.
7: Blackman’s blocks.
9: Consecutive points served by Allen early in the final set.
10: Princeton’s largest deficit (14-4) in the second set before the Bulldogs came back to win it 27-25.
12: Kills by Blackman.
14: Eklund’s kills.
South has eight more matches before its huge conference opener at Cleveland on Sept. 17.
Princeton has three matches remaining before its Carolina 1A opener against visiting Hobbton on Sept. 9.