One of the goals for the Clayton volleyball team heading into the season was to become the best team in Johnston County.
After a sweep over North Johnston Wednesday night (25-18, 25-17, 25-13), it would be hard to argue with the Comets’ claim to that title thus far, albeit early in the season.
After nabbing its second win over the Panthers so far, combined with wins over Cleveland, Smithfield-Selma and South Johnston, Clayton stands at 5-0 on the season with every win coming against county foes.
“One of our goals was to be the county’s best team,” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “It’s just a start now but this is one of our goals…to win county games. This is probably one of our best starts in a while.”
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Freshman Maya Gray helped the visitors take control of the first set with eight service points including six in a row early on in the set.
As the match wore on, Gray, Riley Kerigan, Auburn Morgan and Cayli Sutton similarly helped to spark the Comets with runs from the service line while North Johnston (0-5) only managed three consecutive points on four different occasions.
Clayton’s advantage didn’t take long to present itself to the casual observer as the Comets dominated at the net. The Comets had many different weapons for their pair of savvy setters, Kerigan and Morgan, to turn to in the transition with nine different players registering kills.
“We’re strong at the net with our blocking and our hitting,” said Lee. “We’ve got the freshman Maya Gray out here hitting with Ally (Felix) and Bailey (Purdue). That’s one of the things that we’ve got to use to our advantage.”
The Panthers have faced off against against three tough teams to open up their season – Clayton, Eastern Wayne and Louisburg – each of which who had girls who could swing with power and the Panthers are struggling with anticipating their opponents’ attacks.
“My girls are not focusing on information given to them before they move and where they’re supposed to be,” North Johnston coach Nicole Davis said. “We’re struggling with our people making their read, closing the blocks and being where they’re supposed to be before the ball comes to us.”
Without a big presence at the net, the valiant efforts from the likes of Barrett Davis, Mary Catherine Davis, Santiago and Shae Suttles could only delay the inevitable.
THREE TO KNOW
Ally Felix, Clayton: The junior outside hitter led all players with seven kills on the night as she repeatedly hit through the hands of would-be blockers at the net.
Maya Gray, Clayton: The freshman made her presence felt at the net with four kills and three blocks and generally dissuaded the Panthers from attacking in her direction. Gray also totaled nine aces for the match.
Jada Santiago, North Johnston: Santiago led North Johnston with 11 digs and led a spirited effort from the Panther’s backrow.
Ashley Tutt, Clayton: The libero proved to be almost unbeatable on the backline for the Comets leading the Comets with 13 digs
Clayton looks to extend its win streak to open the season against Johnston County teams Smithfield-Selma and South Johnston before beginning conference play in the Greater Neuse River Conference.
North Johnston will look for its first win in a pair of home-and-away series against Nash Central and Southern Nash before Eastern Plains 2A Conference play begins.