09/22/06 — Warrior volleyball outlasts C.B. Aycock

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Warrior volleyball outlasts C.B. Aycock

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 22, 2006 2:18 PM

Eastern Wayne's volleyball team broke open a tightly-contested fifth set in the middle stages claimed a thrilling victory over rival Charles B. Aycock on its home floor on Wednesday in Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference action.

The Warriors (7-2 overall), who improved to 3-1 in ECC play, won the two-hour match 25-11, 21-25, 25-18, 19-25, 15-7.

The Golden Falcons (7-3 overall) dropped to 2-2 in the league.

After taking the fourth set 25-19 and tying the match at two sets apiece, Aycock jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fifth set after an ace by Jazzmine Lee. But Eastern Wayne quickly closed the gap at 5-5 -- taking advantage of several free balls by the visitors -- and never looked back. Brittanni Billups, Jordei Osby and Anna Wilkins posted several kills each in the middle of the set as the Warrior advantage surged to 12-7.

With Eastern Wayne's Leanna Rothwell serving, Aycock coach Davis Harris called two timeouts late in the set hoping to slow the home team's momentum. But Wilkins and Billups provided back-to-back kills, then an unforced error by the Falcons pushed the score to the final margin of 15-7.

"We got down 4-0, then from that point on we played the best we've played all year," Eastern Wayne coach Bruce Burridge said. "That's the team we need to be all the time right there."

Much like the fifth set, the Warriors turned a close contest into a runaway in the first set. Down 8-6 after an ace by Aycock's Julia Lancaster, the Warriors went on to claim 19 of the next 22 points to win 25-11. The serving of Carly Boyette and Billups and a handful of kills by Wilkins up front keyed the first-set win.

The second set proved to be tight throughout as neither squad took more than a four-point lead. A carry by the Warriors gave the Falcons a late, 23-21 lead as Lauren Pratt took serve and finished out the set. Shelly Lancaster provided a tip, before Lee added a kill to close out the second set at 25-21.

"It was a back-and-forth kind of game," Harris said.

Eastern Wayne went up 6-5 in the third set and never trailed again. Using a similar formula as the fifth set -- consistent serving and versatility up front -- the Warriors led by as much as six at 19-13 when Billups finished off a kill. Aycock got as close as four at 19-15 on an ace by Shelly Lancaster, then Eastern Wayne pulled away late to go up 2-1.

"If we are serving well, we can control the outcome," Burridge said. "During the second game, we weren't serving well and I thought that was the difference. Then the girls battled back and decided they weren't going to give this one up at home."

Still, Aycock wouldn't let the home team finish it off in four as the serving of Julia Lancaster and Lee and some timely kills by Shelly Lancaster and Amy Fryt boosted the visitors to a 13-8 lead. After a pair of unforced errors by Eastern Wayne, the Falcons took their biggest advantage at 20-12 and never led by less than four the rest of the way -- forcing a fifth and deciding set.

"I was worried after game three, but I was proud of how we stepped up and got it to game five," Harris said. "They (Eastern Wayne) just took better opportunity of their chances during some key spots. Eastern Wayne is much improved. They used to send just one up front last year, and now they come at you in waves."

Both coaches believe the ECC is a wide-open race and could easily come down to the last game of the regular season with tiebreakers decided in the league tournament.

"It's going to be a battle. It's very balanced," Burridge said. "I think the conference tournament is going to decide a lot."

Eastern Wayne visits Kinston on Tuesday, while Aycock travels to Southern Wayne.