Cleveland coach Shelley Johnston said her team played its best match so far this season on Thursday against county rival West Johnston.
And Wildcat coach Meredith Blake said her team had its worst.
The result had the Rams in control most of the way, as they avenged an earlier loss to the Wildcats with a 3-0 (25-12, 25-19, 25-21) romp.
Cleveland improved to 4-2 on the season with the non-conference volleyball victory, while West dropped to 3-1.
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West had won the earlier meeting in Benson in five sets eight days earlier, including a blowout 15-4 in the final set.
But Thursday was the Rams’ day. And it was doubly tough for West, which according to Blake likely lost freshman outside hitter Grace Kane for the season with an injury to her right leg with her team trailing 17-14 in the third set.
Kane was leading the Wildcats in kills at the time of the injury.
“Our defense was totally different this time,” said Cleveland coach Johnston, whose team had swept two meetings with the eventual Greater Neuse River 4A champions last season. “We’re learning how to hustle and show effort. Our practices have been focused on teaching them how to have fun and to run after balls. My team is really young, but I think we had a breakthrough today.”
With West leading 13-9 in the third set, Cleveland sophomore Jenna Myer had three straight aces to start an 8-0 run.
THEY SAID IT
“We played as a team the last time we met, and everything was clicking,” said West’s second-year coach Blake. “Today we collectively had an off day. Our hitters, our setters, our passers, serving – it was uncharacteristic of what’s been going on this season. This is the first time we haven’t played as a team.”
THREE TO KNOW
Jenna Myer, setter, Cleveland: The sophomore led her team in both aces and assists.
“My serving was pretty consistent today, and we got some good momentum,” Myer said. “We started off strong, and we stayed positive the whole match. We worked hard, and placed the ball where they weren’t.”
Taylor Thomas, outside hitter, Cleveland: The junior led her team in kills.
Grace Kane, outside hitter, West Johnston: The freshman led her team in kills before her injury.
BY THE NUMBERS
5: The number of times the game was tied in the third set, the last time at 21-21.
7: Kills by Kane.
9: Aces by Myer.
11: Kills by Hein.
15: Kills by Thomas.
34: Assists from Myer.
Cleveland hosts Harnett Central on Monday, the first of three more non-conference matches before its Two Rivers 3A opener on Sept. 13 against visiting Triton.
“We cleaned up some areas where we had had some tough spots before,” Cleveland junior Hein said. “I thought we communicated well and felt comfortable with each other. We just came out focused and optimistic today.”
West opens conference play on Tuesday at Rolesville.
“We didn’t come together as well as we usually do,” Wildcat captain Kelsey Ellis said. “Our chemistry was just off and that had a big effect on our play. We had too many mistakes. We didn’t communicate, and we didn’t trust each other.”