Twice in Alleghany’s Mountain Valley Athletic Conference volleyball matchup with West Wilkes Thursday afternoon in Millers Creek, the Trojans had the Blackhawks on the ropes late in sets.
Twice the Hawks came back to claim those sets.
To paraphrase a character from the recent television show “The Wire,” if you come at the queen, you better not miss.
Alleghany missed those double golden opportunities to score the potential upset over the defending league champs, and instead the Hawks escaped with a hard-fought 3-1 victory.
The Trojans, who did win set three 25-20, had a lead in set one (as late as 23-22) and set four (also at 23-22).
But both times the Blackhawks charged back, and those comebacks proved to be the difference in the match as West Wilkes improved to 7-0 overall and 3-0 in league play.
“We were a little tired,” smiled Hawks Head Coach Steve Bryan afterward. “This was our third match in three days, and we played Forbush (a 3-0 West Wilkes win in East Bend) last night, so it was a tough stretch for our kids.
“So I think because we were tired, and because we got a couple of leads earlier in the sets, we let up just a little bit tonight at times,” added Bryan. “I hope we learned we have to always keep fighting for it, because it’s only going to get harder once we get deep into the conference schedule.”
After Alleghany had taken the late first set lead on a kill from the left from Kenzi Lyall that found the back corner, Bryan called timeout with his squad faced with the prospect of an early match deficit.
The Blackhawks broke the ensuing serve with a kill by Aaliyah Mastin, and her teammate Katie Nichols took over on serve with little room for error.
The next West point was the result of a kill attempt from Alleghany’s Taylor Allen that sailed well past the end line. That gave the set lead to West at 24-23, and forced a timeout from Alleghany to try and break the concentration of Nichols.
But the stall didn’t work, and after a long volley that saw both squads dig out several hard-hit shots a kill attempt from Alleghany’s Chloe Pruitt landed just outside the back left corner to give the Hawks the set.
The two teams split sets two and three, with West Wilkes absolutely controlling the second by a score of 25-11. But the Trojans hung close in the fourth game, and clung to a 23-21 lead after an off-speed shot from Abby Hawks was true.
That would be the last point Alleghany would score Thursday night. Clonch next broke the visitors’ serve with a merciless, unreturnable shot down the center of the court, and Nichols followed with another kill that tied the match at 23-all.
An unforced error gave the home team the lead, and another kill from Clonch sealed the match victory.
“Hopefully, our kids learned once again that in volleyball, it’s truly never over until the final point,” said Bryan. “Volleyball is such a game of momentum, and things can turn quickly. But when we needed people to step up, we got it. When we needed passing, we got it. When we needed good sets, we got them. We stayed in system, and had just enough variety in our shots and serves to keep them off-balanced. That’s how we were successful.”
West Wilkes next hosts the Starmount Rams tonight in Millers Creek. The Trojans, who fell to 6-3 overall and 2-1 in the MVAC, will try to rebound by tussling tonight with East Wilkes on the road in Ronda.
Alleghany fared better in the evening’s JV match and handed the Blackhawks a truly rare defeat. West Wilkes had last dropped a JV match three years ago, but fell in a furious, back-and-forth third set to lose 2-1. The JV Blackhawks now have a record of 6-1.