ELIZABETHTOWN — Never easy, often less than crisp execution, rivalry matches still elicit the best of emotions when West Bladen clashes with East Bladen.
Monday evening was the rescheduled volleyball tilt caused by Hurricane Florence. West Bladen was challenged throughout, but closed each set and escaped the Lady Eagles 25-20, 26-24, 25-19.
“It’s amazing,” said junior Jordan Benson, who had nine assists, an ace and two service points. “It’s so exciting to beat your rival.”
Benson delivered key sets for 6-foot-1 senior Raegan Davis late in the middle set of the match, when West Bladen rallied from a 24-22 deficit. The lead had catapulted back and forth, with Davis at one point serving up five straight points and an 18-14 lead.
The hosts bolted back with six of the next eight points to tie at 20. Both teams had an unforced error — the tension of the rivalry perhaps — before sophomore Kayleigh Raynor’s ace into the right corner gave the Lady Eagles their last two-point edge of the set.
Senior Caroline Davis calmly played a winner off the basketball goal overhead to regain service back to senior teammate Alana King. The final three points went through Benson and Raegan Davis at the net.
“Raegan is a good player, and when they were in trouble, that’s who they went to,” said Danielle Hatcher, who shares coaching duties at East Balden with Sara Ward.
The Lady Knights roared from a 12-12 deadlock the first set to lead 22-12, punctuated by Raegan Davis setting up junior Mikayla Meadows. Sophomore Shelby Pharr converted junior Tatiana Hunt’s set for a 24-19 edge, quelling a furious East Bladen rally.
Pharr was at it again in the final set, on the service line for the final nine points as the Lady Knights wiped out a 19-16 Lady Eagles’ lead. Raegan Davis had a block and a kill among the final three points.
“We played as a team,” Benson said of her team’s key to victory. “We had good communication.”
Sophomroe Katie Evans and her teammates were left to lament missed opportunities. East Bladen (3-12, 2-10 Three Rivers) also led 11-6 in the final set.
“We could have played better,” said the Lady Eagles’ setter. “We’ve got to work harder, and not get down. We need to stay positive and anticipate what the other team is going to do.
“We always want to beat them, but they definitely outplayed us today.”
Hatcher and Ward are hopeful of positive trends despite a grueling stretch against the league’s top teams coming up next.
“I just want to see them pull together as a team,” Hatcher said. “I want to see if they can push themselves to take some sets. I think they are capable.”
West Bladen head coach Gaye Davis was grateful to get out with a win despite a bevy of service errors. Her team is 6-6 in the league, 7-7 overall, and feeling the impact of a condensed schedule because of last month’s storm.
“We’ve played a lot of matches, and the girls are tired,” she said. “They came through in the clutch.”
She noted the play of junior hitter Lexie Corrothers, Caroline Davis and Raegan Davis. Corrothers had eight service points and three aces, plus four kills. Caroline Davis had 16 digs, and Raegan Davis finished with 11 kills and nine assists.
In the junior varsity match, East Bladen prevailed 25-10, 25-12.
Coach Danielle Hatcher encourages the Lady Eagles during the second set against West Bladen on Monday.
East Bladen’s Cybil Campbell (21) readies for a return during Monday’s clash with West Bladen. Looking on are Gracyn Martin (15) and Ruth Ward (1).
West Bladen’s Caroline Davis (1) avoids getting hit while Raegan Davis makes the return during Monday’s victory at East Bladen.
Emotions overflow after the final point for West Bladen in a win at East Bladen on Monday. From left are Shelby Pharr (12), Jordan Benson, Sidnee Walters, Lexie Corrothers and Raegan Davis.
West Bladen’s Sidnee Walters readies for a return during Monday’s victory over East Bladen.
East Bladen’s Katie Evans (5) makes the set as Kayleigh Raynor (left) and Sarah Johnson (4) get ready in Monday’s Three Rivers Conference volleyball match with West Bladen.
West Bladen’s Jordan Benson prepares to set as teammates Caroline Davis (1), Shelby Pharr (12), Sidnee Walters and Raegan Davis (12) anticipate.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.