The rivalry between Knightdale and East Wake proved to be a long, drawn out affair on the volleyball court Tuesday night with Knightdale pulling out a 3-2 win on the Knights’ senior night.
Unforced errors appeared to be the name of the game on both sides of the net for most of the five-set match as neither team played a particularly clean contest.
According to East Wake coach Keauna Vinson, unforced errors have been a problem for much of the season. The Warriors have struggled with their passing game this season.
“We didn’t play our game, Vinson said. “We did not play with intensity. We came out flat and we finished flat. My team is better than that.”
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After a back-and-forth battle early in the first set Knightdale (6-16, 3-9 Greater Neuse River Conference), rolled off 11 straight points to take control and win the first set 25-19.
East Wake (5-16, 4-9) jumped out to an early lead in game two, but the Knights kept the game close until Warriors senior Tamira Knuckles decided to make a stand with a big block at the net and then a power shot for the 25-22 win.
The Warriors led early again in game three in a very tight battle with several long rallies for a 25-23 win and a 2-1 advantage in the match.
It looked as though neither team wanted to own the fourth game with shots going wide and long on both sides. But Knightdale went on a late surge behind outside hitter Ayanna Jones scoring five points for a 25-18 win to force a fifth game.
Senior Jena Massing came up big at key moments in the last two games to help nudge the scales in the Knights’ favor. The two teams traded net violations and missed serves in game five, but Knightdale was able to prevail with a 15-13 win to take the match.
For first-year Knightdale coach Shavoy Irving, this has been a season of adjustment for his young team.
“It has been a learning process,” Shavoy said. “We weren’t hitting the ball well in the second and third set, which cost us, but we did communicate well in the last two sets.”
For the Warriors, it was a tough loss. The team had some good moments, but could not get the momentum to swing back in its favor.
“It’s not that people are hitting the balls at us,” Vinson said. “We have a good front line. It’s passing – we just haven’t been able to finish games.”
The Warriors will look to bounce back when they close out the regular season with their senior night against Harnett Central on Thursday at 5 p.m.
Knightdale will close out its schedule with West Johnston, who is tied with Clayton atop the GNRC standings at 11-1. The Knights have nothing to lose in the venture and would love to play spoiler and close out with a big win.
“The way we finish the season is going to say a lot for next year,” Irving said. “I hope our young players step up and show their ability.”
Both teams will start with a clean slate when they head into the conference tournament starting next week. The Warriors, who have not had their typical late-season run, will look to bounce back to make a run at a playoff spot while the Knights hope to gain some valuable experience for their young squad.