In the moments before the volleyball match at Corinth Holders Thursday night, a few Cleveland players sang along and did a bit of choreography as Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” played over the speakers.
The Rams took that enthusiasm with them into the match itself, building a 2-0 lead before hanging on to a 3-2 victory (25-19, 25-14, 20-25, 14-25, 15-11).
With the win, Cleveland (13-6, 7-2 Two Rivers 3A) pushed into second place in the conference, while the defending champions were left to battle Western Harnett for third.
“I’m proud of the way they played,” said Cleveland coach Shelley Johnston. “I’m most proud (that) it looked like they were having fun out there. And that’s one thing that we’ve really struggled with this year. I’ve had to teach them how to have fun. … They have all the skills, it’s just a matter of teaching them how to relax out there. How to have fun.”
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The good times were abundant in the early going, as the Rams never trailed on the scoreboard during the first two games.
In Game 1, Taylor Hein’s three service winners powered Cleveland to an early 8-1 lead. The Pirates (11-7, 5-3) battled back, pulling to within 16-13 on Grace Pittman’s block, but came no closer as Hein finished off the opening game with one of her 11 kills on the night.
It was more of the same in Game 2, as the visitors built a 16-5 lead before on the way to a two-set advantage.
The match had all the makings of a clean sweep before the Pirates got things going in Game 3.
Jamie Turner opened the game with two early kills to energize the home crowd, and Ali Blanco recorded the last two points of the game with kills of her own to get Corinth Holders on the board.
“I was not happy with the way that we started,” said Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley. “I put it on them, and I told them they have to execute better. We started to put the ball in play a little more, and stop making mistakes.”
Buoyed by the success, the Pirates started the fourth game with an 11-0 burst.
Julie Weisenburg started things off with a block, then recorded four aces en route to building that double-digit lead. Cleveland never recovered, and a comfortable Game 4 win set the stage for a decisive fifth game.
The Pirates started the final game as hot as they were in the previous one, and a Turner kill put them up, 4-0. The Rams won the next five points, however, two of those coming on kills from Ashley Talbot.
Cleveland’s Taylor Thomas snapped a 9-9 tie with a kill and then added another on the following point to put the Rams ahead for good.
“Our serving got pretty good in the fourth game,” Riley said. “We had a lot of momentum going into Game 5. We just made some silly mistakes here and there, and they got back in the game.”
THEY SAID IT
“I have such a young team,” Johnston said. “I’m proud of them for pulling out that win. This season, we haven’t been able to pull those out at the end.”
THREE TO KNOW
Taylor Thomas, Cleveland: Led all players with 17 kills.
Jenna Myer, Cleveland: Had 50 assists on the game.
Ali Blanco and Jamie Turner, Corinth Holders: Tied for a team-high 11 kills.