WENDELL — It has been said over and over and over again. Momentum is a very fickle teammate.
It can sit on the bench or be on the playing surface with one team, as it steamrolls through its opponent.
But in the blink of an eye, something will cause momentum to get up, walk across to the other side and take a seat with that opponent, turning the athletic contest around in a split second for no reason at all.
That’s what the volleyball teams from South Johnston and Corinth Holders had to endure Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 1, in their Two Rivers 3A Conference match.
And when momentum finally decided who it wanted to share her afternoon with, the Trojans found themselves with a four-set (30-28, 25-22, 9-25, 25-21) victory, enhancing their playoff hopes. The triumph left the Trojans solidly in third place with a 4-3 conference record while improving to 11-6 overall. The victory followed South’s three-set sweep of 4A Clayton on Monday, Sept. 30.
Corinth Holders, entering the match hoping to stay close to unbeaten league-leader Triton, instead slipped to 11-3 overall and 5-2 in the Two Rivers.
South Johnston’s victory avenged a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Pirates Sept. 12.
The Trojans grabbed the early advantage with its 30-28 first set victory. Neither team gave an inch in that emotional set, with the Pirates holding leads of 13-10, 22-19 and 23-20, only to see the Trojans battle back.
South Johnston had seven one-point leads, but could never put the Pirates away until Cole Narron netted a return on the seventh set point between the squads.
Corinth Holders had a chance to take the first set, leading 24-22, but a kill by the Trojans’ Madison Byrd and a mishit out of bounds by the Pirates’ Lindsay Alford took the score to 24-all.
South’s Alexis Massengill gave the Trojans a 29-28 lead on an assist from Emma Blackman prior to the set point netter from Narron.
“Winning that first set was big for us,” said Trojans coach Matthew Adams. “Anytime you go on the road against a competitive team, winning the first set is a big deal, helping you keep your head up.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and can be a positive mental thing.”
The positive aspect, as well as having momentum on their side, was big as well for the Trojans, who parlayed the first set win into early 6-1 and 9-3 leads in the second set.
Corinth Holders, behind the defensive digs of Lexi Consiglio and the front-line play of Alford, Christi Innocent, Narron, Katelyn Leach, Samantha Payne and Cyarra Pearson, battled back to claim a 15-14 edge.
The teams traded the lead as neither could claim momentum until a 4-0 run, sparked by kills from ChyAnn Kethcum and Blackman and a Kethcum ace.
The Pirates closed within 23-22, but a service error and a tip at the net by the Pirates that went wide sealed a 2-0 lead for the Trojans.
“We were fortunate to win the first two sets,” Adams said. “They were both close and could have gone either way with a play or two either way.
The Pirates refused to capitulate, and blitzed the Trojans in the third set with momentum clearly on their side. With Consiglio digging almost every attempted kill and dink, and the Pirates’ service game coming to life after being virtually absent in the first two sets, Corinth Holders roared from a 5-5 standoff to a 13-5 lead behind Payne, who delivered three aces.
Pearson followed with five service points, including four aces, to push the margin to 20-8. Kelly Ammons served out the set with an ace in a 3-0 run, highlighted by a pair of double blocks by Alford and Payne and a kill from Narron.
“I challenged the girls to play like they had been taught,” said Pirates coach Charles Riley.
Momentum stayed with the Pirates as Corinth Holders, on the strength of three consecutive aces by Ammons, built a 9-3 lead in the fourth set. They appeared on the verge of repeating the third set massacre. But without rhyme or reason, momentum walked over to the Trojans side of the court following an ace by Payne, and South Johnston righted their ship, regaining control with a 16-5 run and cruising to take the match.
“There was a lot of inconsistency among our girls,” Riley said. “We needed to be more consistent than we were.
“I felt we had a big missed serve in that fourth set that created momentum the other way and all of a sudden it was almost even.”