After enduring a bus ride of nearly three hours, and facing on of the state’s best 3A teams did not make for a pleasant afternoon for South Johnston in the second round of the NCHSAA 3A volleyball playoffs.
But the Trojans, with an inspired effort, gave the highly regarded and fourth-seeded Blue Comets all they wanted before falling, in three sets Tuesday.
“I told the girls coming here we needed to be excited,” said South Johnston coach Matthew Adams. “We had a long day getting over here on a long bus ride.
“You never know how (we) were going to come out, but I’m as pleased and proud on the job they did today. Our effort, throughout the first game showed we were right there with them.”
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Given little chance of surviving, the Trojans shocked their hosts from the mid-Piedmont Conference through the first two sets, dropping both by respective margins of 25-21 and 25-20.
Not only did the Trojans come close, they held a 19-13 lead in the second set, before a well-timed and badly needed timeout by the Blue Comets helped turn the tide.
Not that the Blue Comets needed any help. Amy Yates, Riley Clark, Courtney King, Hannah Ferguson and Jasmine Gaines did what was necessary to gain all the momentum and close out the set and then the match.
But before they could, South had the Blue Comets faithful buzzing worriedly over the relentless and inspired effort by the 13th-seeded representative from the Two Rivers Conference, which saw its season ended with a 17-8 mark.
The teams matched point for point until the Blue Comets (22-2) went on a 7-1 run behind a pair of kills by Gaines and three from King,
But South Johnston battled back, rallying within 21-19 on kills by Emma Blackman and Madison Byrd and a pair of Blue Comets hitting errors.
Asheboro regrouped and used four hitting errors by the Trojans to claim the opening set.
South seemed as if it could do no wrong in the second set, opening up a 19-13 lead behind two kills each by Lily Allen, Madison Byrd and Blackman, along with six digs and four blocks from Lily Allen and Maykalah Tart added three blocks.
Then came the timeout by the Blue Comets, and the tide turned.
“The first two sets were a lot of fun,” said Trojans coach Matthew Adams. “We scored 21 and 20 and had a big lead in the second set, and gave it away, but I loved our enthusiasm.”
Adams beamed as he recalled the point-for-point battle in the first set, and the start to the second.
But all-out assault by Asheboro, which saw King post two kills and three block, was took much as the Blue Comets closed out the set on a 12-1 run.
Deflated by the loss of the set, the Trojans fell quickly behind 9-2 in the final set, but battled back within 13-1 on before Asheboro used an 11-2 blitz to wrap up the match.
The loss ended the prep volleyball careers of Byrd, Avery West and Kathryn Lee.
“I’ve never been disappointed in our girls,” Adams said. “We’ve been going at it for 40 days whether we were playing a game we could win, or if we were playing a very competitive team, we always gave our best effort.”