DUBLIN — West Bladen put league-leading South Columbus on the ropes.
A pivotal third set went the way of the guests and the Lady Knights tumbled 3-1 in Three Rivers Conference volleyball in The Castle on Wednesday night. South Columbus prevailed 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 25-13, winning its fifth straight since an upset loss to East Columbus.
The Lady Stallions (14-1 Three Rivers, 18-1 overall) are tied in the loss column with Whiteville atop the league; West Bladen continues to jockey for a top-four finish after falling to 7-7 in the league and 8-8 overall.
“We fought hard,” said West Bladen senior Raegan Davis, who combined with junior Mikayla Meadows for an entertaining and challenging duel at the net with the guests’ Sarah Faulk and Makala Wright. “The score doesn’t reflect the way we played. We put everything toward the game.”
And then some.
“We were close, a ball here and a ball there,” said head coach Gaye Davis, mother of Raegan.
The coach described the first meeting in Tabor City as not very close.
“I’m pleased with the way we played,” she said. “They came ready to play. I don’t mind losing if we play well.”
Missed was an opportunity to put the Lady Stallions in a two-set deficit. West Bladen charged ahead 4-0 and 9-4 in the opening set. The lead dwindled slowly, South Columbus finally pushing ahead 15-14 and eventually carving out a 22-16 lead.
The second set was all West Bladen, roaring away from 4-4 to lead 8-4, 15-8 and eventually 23-14. Staggered by South Columbus’ furious rally, the Lady Knights picked up the final two points, the last when junior Jordan Benson handled a return for Raegan Davis to set. Sophomore Shelby Pharr’s soft touch placement was hit out of bounds.
South Columbus gradually created a cushion in the pivotal third set, leading almost all the way.
“They’re really tough,” Meadows said. “It’s hard to move around their blocks, but once you do, you can get it.
“We did great. We hustled and didn’t give up.”
Davis had 10 kills and seven solo blocks; Meadows had nine kills and seven solo blocks.
Senior Caroline Davis had 22 digs and junior Tatiana Hunt 13 against the hard-hitting Lady Stallions. Junior Lexie Corrothers had eight kills and Benson 10 assists.
The teams played in honor of Nathan Nance, a junior at West Bladen with cystic fibrosis. T-shirts were sold, a silent auction was held in the lobby and all proceeds were given to the Sanford chapter of the CF Foundation of North Carolina.
In the junior varsity match, West Bladen was a point away from victory before South Columbus rallied to win 21-25, 26-24, 15-9. Lauren Pait had 10 digs and Olivia Allen eight. Hannah Pait had 11 kills.
West Bladen’s Mikayla Meadows outduels Makala Wright for a point Wednesday evening.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or email@example.com. Twitter: @alanwooten19.