Gators top Southern Wayne in four
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 8, 2005 1:59 PM
DUDLEY -- Spring Creek players dedicated themselves to an offseason of conditioning, team camps and club volleyball competition. The hard work is paying positive dividends thus far for the youth-laden Gators.
With four sophomores and two upperclassmen in its starting rotation, Spring Creek has started a new standard -- or tradition -- in just its fourth season of existence. The Gators rallied from an opening-set loss and upended county rival Southern Wayne a 27-29, 25-16, 25-22, 25-21 on Wednesday afternoon.
Spring Creek claimed its fifth consecutive victory without a defeat.
"I'm excited and they've earned it," said Gators coach Deanna Morris. "They've really worked hard this summer running at the Cliffs of the Neuse. We've had team camp, individual skills camp and the girls have been to other camps.
"I think club volleyball has really helped a lot (too)."
The Gators adjusted to backup setter Ashley Barwick and capitalized on the Saints' mental mistakes proved critical in the four-set win.
Barwick, who replaced an injured Margo Sauter, appeared a little skittish early. Once she settled down, her teammates relaxed and Spring Creek discovered some consistency on offense.
Barwick dished out 15 assists to four hitters -- Lorenda Brogden, Brooke Boggan, Brittani Billups and Tomeka Pride. Billups, a sophomore, provided 10 kills and two blocks. Her kill off Barwick's assist closed out the third set after Southern Wayne had rallied from a three-point deficit to force a 20-20 tie at one point.
"Ashley stepped up and gave some good sets to the girls," said Morris. "They pulled together as a team. Brittani is really good at finding the (open) holes and putting the ball in there.
"I was really pleased with how she was reading the other team (defensively)."
Pride added seven kills and two blocks. Boggan collected 15 digs defensively and added two kills in the final set.
The non-conference affair featured 36 ties and 35 lead changes. Each time either team gained a little breathing room, one play changed momentum and led to a quick scoring surge.
Spring Creek enjoyed a scant one- or two-point advantage in the opening set and struggled to put away the scrappy Saints. Southern Wayne (1-3) fended off four set points and finished off the Gators 29-27 on Charlie Garten's kill down the line.
Morris said her team struggled with Barwick operating the offense and the players miscommunicated on numerous loose balls. Barwick fixed the problem and the Gators opened up their offense in the next three sets.
"The first game was tight," said Morris. "The girls were second-guessing if she'd (Barwick) would get to the ball."
Billups, Pride and Brogden combined for seven kills in the second set.
Pride also served a pair of aces. The trio continued their strong net play in the third set and combined for four kills in a set-ending 5-2 run.
Pride pushed Spring Creek ahead early in the decisive fourth set.
Billups and Brogden followed with kills when they rotated to the net.
Boggan's off-balance kill off Barwick's assist stopped a short Saints run at 15-14 and started a 5-1 surge for the Gators.
"The biggest difference (after the first set) was they started reading the other team a little bit better and started playing a little bit smarter," said Morris. "Before they were smacking it instead of putting it in the (open) holes and they finally realized they needed to put it in the holes."
Meanwhile, Saints coach Sally Combs mentioned "mental toughness" concerning her team's play. Southern Wayne had periods of strong play and put some points together, but serving -- a strength in Tuesday's victory against Goldsboro -- proved fatal against the Gators.
The Saints had 13 service errors, including 11 in the final two sets combined. Those miscues, mixed with hitting errors and the Gators' nine service aces, stopped Combs' team from gaining any considerable momentum.
"When you lose it up top (in your head), it moves to the rest of your body and you stop moving," Combs said. "You quit moving to your spots, miss contact, stop calling the ball ... the kinds of things we need to do.
"Service errors ... putting the ball in the net or getting it into the court had to be more than 10. In a match like this, you can't do that."
Garten concluded the match with 10 kills and one block. Katie Westfall, the Saints' lone senior, contributed four kills and one block.
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