Jay Poole is batting a thousand; the varsity girls’ basketball coach at North Johnston has never led a team that has been defeated in high school play.
But the important distinction to be made is that Poole has a spotless record in volleyball, not basketball, as he filled in for usual volleyball coach Nicole Davis and the Panthers responded with a 3-2 win over North Pitt (25-11, 23-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-9) in a key Eastern Plains 2A Conference match.
“All the credit goes to the girls,” said Poole, who was called upon by Davis to fill in. “They did a great job and you could tell they were well-coached.
“Coach Davis had them ready so they were able to step up tonight.”
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Having exhausted all the possible cross-references that he could think of that worked for both basketball and volleyball, Poole was able to hone in on one area that proved to be the difference Thursday night: unforced errors.
A trend developed as the match wore on and the two teams split the first four sets.
“It seemed like the sets we won, we kept the ball in play and really did a good job at not beating ourselves,” Poole said. “And really that’s what I kept trying to tell them, to keep it in play, let them make the mistakes and don’t give them points.”
More specifically, the home Panthers took the first and third sets during which they limited the number of service errors they committed.
In the final set, Chandler Hines not only kept the ball in play but was able to put it where the visiting Panthers were not as the senior used a solid service game to stake North Johnston to a 7-1 lead to start the fifth set.
The Panthers proceeded to hold off North Pitt in the final set to improve to 8-10 on the season including a 3-5 mark in the conference.
“In the final set, we didn’t have any service errors,” noted Poole. “Chandler was hot in that fifth set during her service and the rest of them kept the ball in play like I told them and I think that was the big difference right there.”
Fellow seniors Kaycie Evans, Jamie Johnson and Olivia Narron all turned in similar efforts from the service line to lead the Panthers.
Coming into its latest match, North Johnston had been swept in its three previous conference contests, all on the road.
North Pitt dropped to 8-8 on the season but still remains one game ahead of North Johnston at 4-4 in the conference despite losing both contests this year to the Panthers.