09/26/07 — Long overdue: Saints earn much-awaited victory over Aycock volleyball

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Long overdue: Saints earn much-awaited victory over Aycock volleyball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 26, 2007 3:06 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Regular-season meetings against county rivals Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock haven't favored the Southern Wayne volleyball team in recent years.

In fact, the Saints had compiled a combined 0-25 record against the two Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference rivals since 2001.

They're "o-fer" no more.

Southern Wayne ended six-plus frustrating years of futility with an emphatic 26-24, 25-21, 25-22 victory Tuesday afternoon. Christy Weaver and Clarice Sherard combined for 18 kills and seven blocks in the 1-hour, 17-minute affair.

"I think that we're finally starting to get that mentality that it's not just enough to compete," said Southern Wayne coach Colby Mangum. "They're starting to get that hunger they want to win. It's starting to push them that extra little bit. They've been showing that in practice.

"They had a point to prove and they proved it."

The Saints (3-6 overall) finished the first-half portion of their ECC schedule at 3-2. The Golden Falcons (2-9) tumbled to an uncharacteristic 1-4 in the league and hardly played with any emotion throughout the contest.

"They played like they wanted it more than we did and that's a credit to Southern Wayne," said Aycock coach Davis Harris. "Every point they won, they were up and excited. That's the way we've got to be."

The opening game featured 12 ties and five lead changes.

Defense proved to be the Saints' best offensive weapon. They benefited from numerous Golden Falcon mistakes and stayed within striking distance as the game progressed.

Two unforced errors sandwiched between a Sherard solo block created a 22-22 tie. The teams exchanged hitting errors and Aycock moved back in front on Beth Carter's kill -- one of 12 for the afternoon.

Three consecutive Golden Falcon miscues, including a dropped ball on serve receive, allowed the Saints to escape 26-24.

"What's frustrating is we're making mistakes at crucial times, when it's a one- or two-point game," said Harris. "Teams have been feeding off our mistakes and that's one thing we've constantly discussed. We cannot keep helping other teams out.

"If they're going to get points, they've got to earn them."

Bridgette Briggs' solo block and two kills from Carter helped ignite an 8-4 run in game two. The Saints responded with three consecutive service aces from Morgan Davis and Ashley Davis' kill off Weaver's assist, which put them ahead 11-10.

Weaver's kill and solo block against Briggs, and two aces from Jordan Coor enabled Southern Wayne to grab a commanding 16-10 advantage. The Saints extended the lead to eight points, only to see Aycock pull within 21-19 on Briggs' solo block against Sherard.

But unforced errors, again, doomed the Golden Falcons. Four consecutive miscues fueled a game-ending 5-2 run for Southern Wayne and gave it a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match.

"They got some decent attacks, but we just didn't put the ball where it needed to be," said Harris. "Our passing went away from us in game two and we missed some serves at crucial times."

In game three, Weaver and Sherard controlled the net. Weaver managed just one kill, but coerced the Golden Falcons into mixing up their offensive strategy. The senior middle blocker moved well from each side of the net as Aycock's hitters attempted kills from the outside.

Sherard did the offensive damage with three straight kills at one point as Southern Wayne led 11-6.

"Christy is such a dominant blocker on her own and Clare is really starting to come around," said Mangum. "She's beginning to understand her height and her strength. My middles have been the heart and soul of this team for three games.

"It's been nice."

Although Weaver and Sherard deflected several hard-hit balls, neither Carter nor Briggs backed down off the net. Each collected kills during a short run as the Golden Falcons pulled within 16-13.

Southern Wayne couldn't pull away, however. Briggs pounded out three more of her 10 kills to make it 23-21. The Saints earned a sideout on Weaver's solo block against Briggs.

Two points later, the Saints finally claimed that long-awaited victory over their rivals.

"We don't have experience playing with a lead, but the more we get used to it and keeping a lead, we'll get a little more aggressive," said Mangum. "Then we'll get a little more killer instinct to finish the game off instead of drawing it out."