There is plenty of volleyball to be played this season in the Greater Neuse River Conference but a log jam was taking shape in the middle of the league standings that both Garner and West Johnston were looking to rise above as they faced each other Thursday night.
The Wildcats rallied to take the opening game, persevered in an evenly matched second period and cruised in the third set for a 3-0 sweep of the Trojans (25-23, 25-20, and 25-12). The victory saw West Johnston (6-5, 4-2) move a game ahead of East Wake, Garner and Harnett Central at about the halfway point of the conference season with only Knightdale in front of them.
“It was a very big win for us,” West Johnston coach Meredith Blake said. “Our girls have struggled with being consistent and finishing games. This is the first hard (match) that we won in three so the fact that we came out and dominated in the third game was huge for our girls.”
The Trojans held a 22-20 lead late in the opening game before the Wildcats rallied and Garner then also stayed within striking distance the entire second game but was unable to string together enough points to keep momentum on their side of the net.
Trailing 22-20 late in the opening set, West Johnston rallied to score five of the final six points to take the 1-0 lead. Kelsey Ellis helped earned the side out for the Wildcats with a kill that was followed up by Tatianna Thompson’s heady push over the net and cross-court to even the score.
After a Garner (5-9, 3-3) swing went long to give the hosts the one-point advantage, Abby Barbour and Emily Rentz then closed out the set with back-to-back kills.
Three who mattered
Abby Barbour, West Johnston: Barbour was the Wildcats’ most consistent attacking threat Thursday night and led West Johnston with 12 kills.
Brooke Applequist, West Johnston: Applequist was pivotal for West Johnston’s transition game as she patrolled the back line and middle of the court to lead the Wildcats in digs and was also valuable with a solid serve receive game.
Shaylynn Hall, Garner: The 5-foot-11 sophomore was a nuisance at the net all night for the Trojans blocking half-a-dozen attacks from the West Johnston middle hitters.
Garner will be on the road yet again for two pivotal GNRC matches this week against teams below them in the standings: Rolesville and Southeast Raleigh.
West Johnston will have its turn to try to put a blemish on Knightdale’s current undefeated mark in the GNRC on Tuesday.