When the going got tough for the Wakefield volleyball team, they simply went to what they do best.
After squandering a 2-0 lead in their N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A first-round playoff match at home to East Chapel Hill, it simply became a game of get the ball to senior setter Gentry Benda, who wanted to set up junior Ade Owokoniran.
Owokoniran had eight kills in the final set – seven of them served up by Benda – as the Wolverines cruised in the fifth to claim their first playoff victory since winning the state championship in 2013. Wakefield won 3-2 (25-18, 27-25, 21-25, 22-25, 15-8) on Wednesday.
“We realized the significance of things,” Wakefield coach Cynthia Terrell said. “It was win or go home, and we wanted to do the first. I told them to simply play Wakefield ball. Stay confident and do what you do best.”
The 6-foot-2 Benda, who is the lone senior who played on the state championship team, said the 6-foot-2 Owokoniran makes it easy for her to do something that doesn’t come naturally.
“Ade is such a great player,” said Benda, who had 30 assists to go with her 13 kills. “I’m not a setter at all, but she makes it so easy for me. She goes up from all over, and can really hit it down.”
On Thursday, No. 8 seed Wakefield will travel to No. 1 Green Hope (23-1) a 3-0 winner over No. 16 South Central (7-11). Green Hope champions of the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference, have lost a combined 12 sets in 24 matches. Wakefield of the Cap-8 has lost 28 in going 16-5.
No. 9 East Chapel Hill finishes the season at 13-10.
Wildcats head coach Michelle Wood said her team showed extreme poise by not folding up after the crushing way it lost the second set.
Down as many as eight points in the early going, East Chapel Hill rallied to take a lead at 22-21 and had two set points before eventually falling on an unforced error at the net.
“We simply ran out of it in the fifth set,” Wood said. “And No. 8 (Owokoniran) cranked it up another notch. But I’m proud of my team. We could have folded up our tents after the first two sets. Instead of the inconsistent play we had, we started to play defense, communicate and block very well.”
Leading much of those third, and fourth-set charges was senior middle hitter Zoe Dinkins. Dinkins had 14 of her team’s 27 blocks; along with 16 kills. Senior libero Hope Kim had 22 digs, while senior outside hitter Grayson Walter had 12 kills.
In the fifth, Wakefield senior Jehlina Rosa got a kill on the opening point to put the Wolverines up, and Owokoniran took feeds from Benda for spikes on the next two to make it 3-0.
The Wildcats tied it up at three following an ace by Walter, but the Wolverines notched the next five points to take control.
It reached match point on a nice block and then spike from Owokoniran for her match-high 31st kill. Walter staved off elimination with a kill before Benda ended the match with a kill with a helper from junior Erin McEneny (15 assists).
“I wanted it so badly,” Benda said of the win. “As the only one left from the state championship team, I want to get back there so badly. This is the first step.”