Saints miss chances to put away Cleveland
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 7, 2011 1:48 PM
DUDLEY -- Southern Wayne hit the wall.
Cleveland found its way around it.
Junior middle hitter Courtney Ireland cranked out a match-high 16 kills in the Rams' 25-18, 28-26, 25-15 victory on the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference volleyball scene Tuesday afternoon.
Three service miscues prevented the Saints (1-3 overall, 0-2 ECC) from possibly scratching out their first league win of 2011.
Carlie Heath's kill off Kayla Overton's assist gave Southern Wayne a 17-15 advantage in the opening set. A serving error, coupled with Courtney Morris' ace created a 17-17 tie and sparked the Rams' set-ending run.
Cleveland collected eight of the next nine points and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five contest.
Elizabeth Best's solo block against Ireland and Savannah Wiggins' ace gave the Saints a 22-16 lead in the second set. Ireland, who hit .241 for the match, earned the sideout point with a kill off Morris' assist.
Ireland served aces on four of the next five points, which forged a 22-22 deadlock. The Saints had set point at 24-23 on Madison Davis' ace, but couldn't put Cleveland away.
The Rams capitalized on consecutive serve errors to win 28-26.
"We didn't give up in that second set," said second-year Rams head coach Megan Morris. "Last year, we would have given up on it. This year, that's one of our goals to keep playing through, put teams away and not keep letting them come back on us. Last year, as freshmen and sophomores, we didn't have the mindset and we didn't have the leadership to say we can beat them and go on.
"This year they're kind of believing in themselves a little bit more."
Southern Wayne never recovered from its first- and second-set lapses. Cleveland reeled off 11 of the first 13 points in the decisive third set. The Saints climbed within 23-12 when Best slammed a short service return back over the net.
The Rams stayed in command to complete the three-set sweep.
"We lost this entire match on two points ... our two serves in the net on (set) point (in set two)," said fourth-year Saints head coach Eric Durol. "Once our second one hit the net, we lost the entire match. If we had won that, I think we'd have won out.
"Our energy was great, and it has been since the Spring Creek match. But they still hit that wall where 'we're going to lose.' They never recovered and it showed in the third set."
Cleveland owned a 33-13 advantage in team kills. Courtney Morris dished out 18 assists, while Brittany Bucklin handed out 10 assists.
Best and Davis paced the Saints' offensive attack with four and three kills, apiece. Overton and Emily Carr each passed out four assists. The Saints had 13 team kills, 10 aces and 19 unforced errors.