WENDELL — East Wake bested Knightdale 3 sets to none Thursday night, but that lopsided score doesn’t begin to tell the story of a match that was close throughout and that featured intense play on both sides of the net.
East Wake, celebrating senior night during its last home game of the regular season, avenged an earlier season loss to Knightdale with a 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 win led by a strong floor game from sophomore Angel Rizor.
Rizor used razor-sharp services that barely cleared the net to force Knightdale defenders to play on their heels. Her net game was also key for the Warriors, whether she was defending shots at the net or spiking the ball into openings in the Knightdale defense.
But it was a play by a senior that Rizor credited with keeping East Wake in the game.
“I think Caitlin Brown’s dig in that third game was really big for us,” Rizor said.
That dig came early in the third game, with East Wake leading 7-6. Brown’s play saved a long rally that featured clutch hitting by both teams. East Wake won the point and built a small working margin until midway through the final game. With the score 14-12, East Wake’s Sandi Crumel launched a seven-point service streak that extended East Wake’s lead to 21-12 before Knightdale could stop the bleeding.
After Knightdale mounted its own rally, Rizor slammed the door with a spike to lift East Wake back to a six-point advantage at 22-16.
All three games featured a handful of long rallies that stirred up the crowd and generated tension in the gym Thursday night.
Knightdale standout Delaney Vandergrift credited the East Wake crowd for making it a tough place to play.
“Their crowd was really tough. They took us out of what we wanted to do. That’s no excuse. We should have been able to come in here and do what we wanted to do, but they really took us out of our game plan,” Vandergrift said.
East Wake coach Susan Wall agreed.
“It always makes a big difference when you have your student body supporting you. It gets loud in here and the team really fed off that, I think,” Wall said.
Knightdale coach Anna Gay said her team played hard, but she pointed to the difficulty of playing in the East Wake gym, too, but for another reason.
“We had trouble with some of those balls in the roof,” Gay said. “But you have to be ready for that. We will go back and we get to face them again, so we’ll work on some things and try to play better in the next game.”
The win gives East Wake sole possession of fourth place in the Greater Neuse River Conference and knocks Knightdale into fifth, setting up a quick rematch in the first round of the GNRC tournament on Saturday. That game was played after this edition went to press.