The Comets were one point away from completing a clean sweep of Knightdale in volleyball on Thursday.
One kill by Nia Singletary changed everything.
The Knights pulled off the improbable and came back to stun host Clayton, 3-2, after dropping the first two sets and surviving four straight Clayton match points in the third.
The Comets looked to be in full command after opening with wins of 25-15 and 25-19 and then building a 24-20 lead to put the Knights in check. But a Singletary kill followed by a Heaven Jarrell block suddenly shifted the momentum the other way.
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A Comet error kept it going, and a Delaney Vandergrift block tied things up. Sarah Woodard served an ace to give the Knights the lead, and Vandergrift sealed the 26-24 backlash with an emphatic kill.
The spark proved to be all the Knights needed to reel off wins of 25-21 and 15-11 in the next two sets. Knightdale improved to 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference. Clayton dropped to 1-2, 1-1.
“They definitely didn’t give up tonight. I was very proud of them,” said Knightdale coach Anna Gay, who had some encouraging words for the Knights after falling behind 2-0. “Clayton was the conference champs last year, so it’s kind of been our goal to come out and beat Clayton. So I said, ‘Hey, this is what we came to do. Let’s step on the gas and get some momentum here.’ ”
That momentum carried into the fourth set, where Knightdale jumped to a 4-0 lead, surrendered nine straight points and then completed another comeback capped by a pair of Vandergrift aces and a well-placed Jarrell kill.
In the fifth and decisive set, Knightdale raced to a 9-2 lead and never trailed.
“Hats off to Knightdale. They got down 0 and 2 and they kept playing,” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “We didn’t keep that same intensity that we had the first two games. We’ll bounce back. It’s a good learning experience.”
The defending conference champion Comets couldn’t get out of their own way, committing five service errors in the dropped fifth set alone.
“That’s all we talk about is the points that we give up,” Lee said. “Missed serves, hitting the ball out or in the net. At least if we can get it in, they’ll have to earn the point. We hit it out, and they just take the point. Night in and night out against good teams, the little things are what carry the momentum.”
Knightdale’s net tandem of Singletary and Jarrell and the setter Vandergrift were a tall order for Clayton to overcome.
“The three of them are really a powerhouse, but we couldn’t have done it without a back row and our passes, and that was really key for us,” Gay said.