Junior Shelby Roal can be a dominant force up front for the North Wilkes Vikings.
But even on nights when Roal doesn’t hit at the net as well as other nights, she can still change a volleyball match.
Tuesday evening in Hays, in North’s last nonconference tune-up before the start of the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference schedule, Roal dominated on serve to help boost the Vikings to an easy 3-0 win over Mitchell.
Roal embarked on long service runs to end both the first and second games. And in the third game, she enjoyed a run at the start that basically put the set out of reach before Mitchell Head Coach Ciji Dellinger could call timeout.
“Shelby wasn’t hitting as well as she normally does early on, but she definitely made up for it,” smiled North Coach Samantha Smith. “She was mixing up her serves very well, alternating short and deep, and she kept them guessing.
“Part of that is just not serving in the same spot twice, but part of that is paying attention to the match as it progresses and finding the holes on their side of the court.”
With her team up 17-13 in the first set — in large part due to a solid early service run from Makayla Cornelius — Roal rolled through three quick points on an ace and two unforced Mountaineers errors to extend the lead to 20-13.
Dellinger called timeout but it didn’t hinder Roal, who responded with five more service points, including two closing aces, to end the set at 25-13.
In game two, Mitchell jumped out to the 9-4 lead, but that margin was wiped out after a long service run from Madison Byrd. Byrd helped the Vikings regain the advantage with a 9-1 burst, but the two teams continued to battle back-and-forth.
Mitchell (3-3) tied the set again at 15-all and Smith called her second and last timeout of the game to re-focus her Vikings. But the outcome was still up in the air when Roal took over on serve again.
She would not give the ball back to the Mountaineers. An ace made it 20-17 in favor of the Vikings, followed by an unforced Mitchell error. Two more aces and a win at the net from McKenzie Johnson, made it 24-7, setting up Roal for one more set-deciding ace.
That second set loss seemed to deflate the visitors. Roal gave the Vikings (4-1) yet another superb run to start the final set and the Mountaineers never recovered, ultimately falling 25-13.
“We all communicated very well tonight,” said Smith in summary. “We moved well, and we got to our spots. That enabled us to get to a lot of balls that maybe we would have missed earlier in the season. We kept a lot of balls alive that we were able to send back.”
Smith also praised the effort of senior Rachel Winkler.
“She hit extremely well tonight. She was powerful with her shots, and put the ball where it needed to go,” said Smith.
Being able to put away the Mountaineers after going up on the first two sets was a big step forward for the Vikings, too. Earlier this fall, North Wilkes had North Stokes on the ropes 2-0 in Hays, but had to survive a comeback attempt with a fifth-set win.
“We’ve talked about being mentally strong for the entire game, and about learning to respond quickly when presented with a challenge on the court,” said Smith. “We took that to heart tonight, and it was great to see.”
The Vikings began their MVAC slate with a home match against county-rival East Wilkes Thursday afternoon. Monday night, North Wilkes will travel to Bakersville for the rematch with Mitchell.
In addition to Monday’s tilt, Mitchell will also receive a visit from the Cardinals in a nonconference match scheduled for Wednesday.
The Vikings’ JV squad also took the victory, besting Mitchell 2-1. North Wilkes now stands at 3-0 on the season.