All it would take was one time. That’s what Cleveland volleyball coach Shelley Johnston kept telling herself.
If and when the Rams blocked Wilson Hunt’s attack, it would probably happen again and again.
Cleveland got that breakthrough block against the Warriors midway of the second set on Saturday, took control of the match from that point and never looked back for a 16-25, 25-21, 25-12, 25-21 victory Saturday.
“I knew once we blocked them, showed ourselves we could do it, we would do it again and again and again,” Johnston said. “We could see what they were doing. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t defend, but we just had to show ourselves we could do it. Once we did it, we didn’t have much trouble the rest of the match.”
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The Rams (16-6) led 10-7 in the second set when Alexis Ivey got the first key block of the match, a stop against Hunt’s Eboni Abdus-Samad. Abdus-Samad had been the biggest weapon the Warriors used to that point in the match.
Cleveland took control of that set with back-to-back kills by Marina Roe and Mallory Macon for a 19-17 lead. Hannah Neville finished off the set for the Rams with a kill.
The Rams never trailed in the third set, jumping out to a 12-5 lead, then reeled off nine straight points in the fourth set to turn a 7-all tie onto a huge lead.
“We had to battle through a lot,” Johnston said. “Not letting them or some calls get to us. We did that and got the win.”
Hunt (16-8) did close to 23-20 later in the set but kills by Ivey and Macon moved the Rams on into the second round and a date against national power Cardinal Gibbons.
Clayton, Corinth Holders eliminated
Corinth Holders fell to Asheboro in three sets in the 3A playoffs. The Blue Comets (21-2) claimed a 25-11, 25-15, 25-13 victory over the Pirates, who finished the season with a 9-10 record.
Corinth Holders will lose only two if its dozen players to graduation. But those players play big roles: captains Samantha Payne and Kelsie Hocutt.
Clayton was swept as well by Winterville D.H. Conley in the 4A playoffs. The Comets took a 25-7, 25-12, 25-11 loss to a 19-3 Vikings’ squad.
Clayton finished 11-9 and loses only Kennedy Paine to graduation.