Volleyball: Smithfield-Selma 3, East Wake 1

Smithfield-Selma edges old league rival East Wake

CorrespondentSeptember 3, 2013 

— Smithfield-Selma’s volleyball team outlasted a scrappy East Wake team in four sets (25-21, 25-12, 21-25, 28-26) Wednesday.

The Spartans (2-3) were coming off a five-set win over North Johnston as they took on their former 4A Greater Neuse rival Warriors (0-3). The Spartans will face their first 3A Two Rivers conference game on Sept. 10 against Cleveland.

The first set started out with Smithfield-Selma scoring three of the first four points from big serves by senior Holly Rabil and strong net play from senior Rachel Moore. For the rest of the set, neither team scored more than four points in a row. Miscommunications, poor passing, and what appeared to be distractions from the ceiling caused East Wake to give up more points than coach Susan Wall liked.

“It’s surprising that the roof gave us problems tonight, because ours is lower,” said Wall. “It’s like, when they see a roof a lot taller than theirs, they just feel like they can hit it to the moon.”

The second set was all Spartans, with the home team getting out to a 16-5 lead before East Wake scored two points back-to-back. The score may not have been close, but there were some intense volleys between each team. Players sliding across the floor, digging out impossible hits, making great sets, then only to have a shot go wide or into the net. That level of play stayed consistent throughout the night for both teams.

The third set caused problems for Smithfield-Selma, but gave opportunities to East Wake. The Spartans were up 10-7 when each team broke serve five consecutive times. The momentum tangibly shifted from one bench to the other, with the Warriors scoring 11 of the last 14 points of the set.

“I think they started feeling a little confidence, a little trust in each other. They saw we actually have skills, and they just have to put something together,” Wall said. “I think actually getting some game experience will help us to develop chemistry and help us get in the flow.”

Spartan coach Chase Crocker said his team may have been a little too overconfident and ended up suffering a letdown.

“They thought they had ’em,” Crocker said. “Next thing you know, East Wake was up, and then they won. They totally got that momentum.”

The fourth set was a slugfest, where neither team showed any sign of giving up.

Smithfield-Selma went up 10-7. East Wake went up 15-11.

After that, the points were flying fast and furiously. The Spartans had game point at 24-23, but lost the two-point cushion when Warrior senior Briana Arnold fired a bullet cross-court winner. But SSS wouldn’t give up the set that easily.

Spartan senior Taylor Hamilton eventually sealed the match with a tip over the net just over the outstretched arms of the Warrior defense.

“That is the best I’ve seen them just kinda pull together and say ‘We’re not going to give up, we’re gonna get to any ball, we’re on the floor, we’re diving for stuff,’ ” Wall said. “That makes me feel great to know they’ve got the heart. That’s great to know moving forward.”

With tough conference schedules ahead for both teams, a championship-like atmosphere early on in the season is a great real life coaching moment.

“You can’t practice that,” Crocker said. “You can put your situations on the board and do all that, but once you’re facing a team live, you got the crowd being loud, and the emotions of the game running wild, you just can’t practice that.”

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