Meredith Blake had to wait a few days while for her first win as a high school head coach, but the new West Johnston volleyball mentor got a convincing one on Wednesday.
The Wildcats, who hadn’t won a set in their matches at home against Cleveland and at South Johnston the previous two days, broke through with a 25-15, 25-12, 25-17 victory at rebuilding Smithfield-Selma.
West is a member of the Greater Neuse River 4A while all of its opponents so far have been from the Two Rivers 3A. SSS is 0-2 under its own new head coach Deanna Morris.
“I thought we played really well,” said Blake, who was at McGees Crossroads Middle last season. “We lost the momentum in the third set, but we pulled through. We were able to serve better than in our first two games, and we were more consistent with our hits. If we can stay consistent on our serves, we can have a lot of success.”
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West has won three straight in the series. The rematch is Sept. 9 in Benson.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the second set, West’s Tessa Starkweather served two straight aces to begin a 6-0 run and jump start the comfortable set victory.
They said it
“Our team has learned a lot, but we still have a lot more to learn,” said Morris, who was previously head coach at Spring Creek and had lost its season opener 3-1 to visiting Clinton. “They’re working really hard. Tonight we worked a lot on getting louder and keeping our motivation up. Our passing has improved, and we played our best in the third set.”
Three who mattered
Abby Barbour, West Johnston: The junior middle hitter had nine kills and four aces.
“We were making good passes, which led to good sets and made it easier for me to kill it,” Barbour said. “We were definitely getting our serves over better.”
Kelsey Ellis, West Johnston: The junior middle hitter had three aces and played solid defense throughout.”
“We really like Coach (Blake),” Ellis said. “She’s so young it’s easier to relate to her. I think we have a chance to win a lot of matches this year.”
Maya Anderson-Badillo, Smithfield-Selma: The sophomore setter finished with eight assists.
“We’re getting better and learning how to play with each other,” Anderson-Badillo said. “We’re starting to develop good chemistry on the court.”
By the numbers
1: Smithfield-Selma led once in a set, 1-0 after breaking Ellis’ serve to start the second.
3: Consecutive aces served by West’s Emily Rentz early in the first set and Barbour early in the third. And the team-high number of consecutive points served by SSS senior Sierra Kincaid in the first.
5: Players who lost serve on consecutive points in the third set before Rentz got a point off her own serve. And the number of times a West player (Ellis, Rentz, Starkweather, Celine Greene, Barbour) served at least four straight points.
8: Anderson-Badillo’s leading assist number for SSS.
9: Barbour had the match-high number of kills.
West visits Cleveland for a rematch on Tuesday before opening conference play at home on Sept. 1 against Rolesville.
SSS has nine more non-conference matches before its Two Rivers opener on Sept. 15 at home against Corinth Holders.