Down 19-13 in the first set, Wilkes Central Head Coach Kevin Anderson’s second timeout might have seemed like a formality, but it was a call that set the stage for a dramatic comeback for the Eagles, and ultimately, a 3-0 win in their volleyball match against visiting county rival North Wilkes Thursday night.
Anderson’s message to his girls was simple — stop trying to do things they felt like doing and get back to what they practice.
It was a message Anderson’s girls took to heart, due in large part to Central’s senior libero Morgan Johnson, who moments later found it her turn to serve, her team down 24-17.
“It was a lot of pressure, and I was really nervous,” said Johnson.
But respond she and her teammates did.
Despite Vikings Head Coach Samantha Smith’s timeout with her team still ahead 24-20, Johnson’s service run of nine consecutive serves secured the first set for the home team, 26-24.
“After the first set, we discussed the little things that kept us from winning the set and how to fix those,” said Smith. “We also emphasized that a volleyball game isn’t won or lost in one set, so we had to get playing and fighting.”
And play and fight they did as the second set saw continual lead changes with neither team able to lead by more than three.
Tied at eight, Wilkes Central’s Karlie Anderson put the Eagles up 11-8 only to have serves by North’s Stacie Shumate and a kill by Shelby Roal knot the score at 12.
A Roal ace put the Vikings up 15-13, but Central’s Christa Walsh’s serves tied the score at 16 only to be followed by serves of North’s Madison Byrd to put the Vikes up 19-16.
A timeout by Wilkes Central led to another Eagle comeback, once again with libero Johnson serving and Central regaining the lead 20-19.
After Smith’s second timeout, the Vikings responded by breaking serve and going ahead with Chasity Stamper serving, 21-20.
However, a serve out tied the score yet again, and with Karlie Anderson serving and an Eagle kill, Central regained a lead it would not lose as a dink by senior Madison German secured the second set 25-23.
Wilkes Central lead throughout most of the final set, expanding an 11-9 lead to 17-10 — a lead that would be cut to 19-16 following serves by Stamper.
However, a kill by Eagle Hayley Parker increased the lead to 20-16 — a gap that would increase to 25-19 as the set and match ended with a kill by Jacklyn Richardson.
After the match, Kevin Anderson noted that his girls “did not play as well as he had hoped against North, but that was due to the pressure they put on us. (North’s Coach) Samantha (Smith) does a good job and Shelby (Roal) hit really well.”
With the win, Wilkes Central (9-5, 6-3)sits alone in third place in the MVAC, a position that will be challenged this week as the Eagles take on fourth place Ashe County today in West Jefferson and second place Alleghany Thursday in Moravian Falls.
Anderson’s goals moving into the final games of the regular season are simple — to keep team chemistry and be ready for each game as it comes.
Smith’s plans for North (11-6, 4-5) are for the team to continue to improve daily as they shift its focus on conference matches today at and Starmount Thursday in Hays.
Note: In the afternoon’s JV match, the Eagles (6-8, 3-6) came away with a 2-0 sweep of the Vikings. Central bested North Wilkes (6-7, 3-6) by scores of 25-15 and 27-25.