Home court helps Knightdale volleyball inch past East Wake

kboilard@newsobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

— The Knights volleyball team was fired up when it claimed a 3-2 victory over East Wake before a raucous home crowd on Tuesday.

After splitting the first two sets, Knightdale (5-6, 4-2 Greater Neuse River 4A conference) was able to squeeze out a 2-point victory in the final set. The Knights thrived off the energy of the crowd from start to finish in the 24-26, 25-14, 15-25, 25-20, 15-13 win.

“Just keeping the energy up and pumping our teammates up,” junior co-captain Sarah Woodard said of the keys to victory. “(The crowd) kept us up the whole time.”

East Wake (4-6, 4-3) struggled to match Knightdale’s level of intensity in the later sets. Warriors head coach Susan Wall – whose team won two of the first three sets – explained how emotionally demanding it is to compete for a full match.

“It’s very draining, and very hard on the kids, because they are devastated when they lose,” Wall said. “It’s very hard to watch them get deflated after something like that. All of the sudden, the rug is pulled out from underneath them.”

Knights head coach Anna Gay said the tone of the match changed just before the start of the final set, acknowledging there was a noticeable home-court advantage.

“That last game, we just figured, ‘OK, let’s just play point-for-point,’ and that was really the turning point for us,” Gay said. “It definitely helped being at home, as well. That energy worked for them.”

Woodard said the home atmosphere gave the Knights an unmatched will to win.

“It gave us that much more energy and desire to win,” Woodard said. “We just wanted it more tonight, especially being at home.”

Aside from the vitality of her squad and its corresponding cheering section, junior co-captain Delaney Vandergrift said the Knights kept focus and were mentally tough.

“We were very technical, we weren’t sloppy,” Vandergrift said. “We stayed in position at all times and we pulled it out.”

The Knights were able to neutralize many of East Wake’s attempts to kill the ball, both in the form of blocks and digs. The Warriors’ towering front line and hitters were kept in check for most of the match thanks to the Knights’ discipline and stifling defensive play.

“I’m very proud of them,” Gay said. “This was a big win, and I’m really proud of the way they battled and came back.”

Vandergrift said the rivalry contest had been on the radar for quite some time.

“East Wake is our rival,” she said. “They’re a tough team. We’ve been focused for weeks and weeks on beating them, and we pushed as hard as we could, and we did it.”

Boilard: 919-829-4816

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