Lady Tigers outlast Lady Bobcats in five-set area thriller

Published 10:00 am Friday, September 15, 2023

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Straughn built a 2-0 lead and withstood a late comeback bid by Opp for a wild 3-2 win in a varsity volleyball area match at home on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Arina Thai focuses intently on the ball during a serve for the Lady Tigers. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

The Lady Tigers improved to 9-4 overall and 1-0 in 3A Area 3 with a 28-26, 25-16, 26-28, 19-25, 15-11 win. The Lady Bobcats fell to 11-2 on the year and 1-1 in area play.

ā€œIā€™m very proud of my girls. We had the 2-0 lead before Opp came back and won two. That is hard to overcome, but the girls did, and I was very proud of them tonight. They beat us in a tournament at Kinston, so we knew it was going to be a good match, and the girls pushed themselves to get the win. Blakeley is a freshman and is killing it for us. We had some girls who were off, but everybody else had to step up when that happened. They played like the team I know they are,ā€ SHS Head Coach Deidra Burleson said.

Opp took an early 2-0 lead in the first set before Ora Hall gave Straughn a 3-2 lead with a kill. Arina Thai had an ace for a 6-3 lead, but a 7-1 visiting run swung momentum back to the other side. Ada Blackstock took the margin to 8-7 as the Lady Bobcats built a 14-9 lead. Four kills from Blakeley Smith and one from Kyleigh Jackson helped the Lady Tigers fight back and cut the deficit to 19-17. Amaya Womack hit a kill and widened the cushion to 21-18 until Claire Howe followed suit and trimmed the gap to 24-23. The two sides went back and forth until Mallory Hall blistered a kill for a 27-26 lead. The hosts held on in extras and took a 1-0 lead.

Shelby Greenacre gets set to send the ball over the net for the Lady Bobcats. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

Womack had a kill for the first point of the second set. Four kills by Smith and three aces from Emily Nelson allowed the Lady Tigers to seize momentum and build a 10-2 lead. Hall widened the lead to 14-5 with a kill, but the Lady Bobcats refused to go away. Blackstock had a pair of blocks along with another kill by Womack and closed the deficit to 14-12. Straughn responded with three straight aces from Howe and a kill by Jackson for a 21-13 lead. Womack brought Opp within seven on a kill, but it was not enough to overcome. Hall, Smith, and Hall knocked kills for a 2-0 lead.

After two visiting points, Presley Melvin took the score to 2-1 in the third set with a kill before Howe tied it at 4-4. Opp regained control and grabbed a 10-6 lead until Jackson had two kills and helped even the score at 10-10. Blackstock followed suit for an 11-10 margin before Womack also added another kill for a 16-13 lead. Straughn forced a 20-20 tie until Womack reached set point with a kill at 24-21. Nelson scored an ace and evened the score at 24-24 to set up another session of extra points. Audrey Lindsey took the score to 26-26 with a kill, but Cuba Wiggins also had one and kept the visitors alive.

Isabella Grissett delivered two kills early in the fourth set as the Lady Bobcats shot out to a 6-1 lead. Lindsey capped a 7-2 surge with a kill and evened the score at 8-8. The Lady Tigers then took a 12-10 lead with two kills by Howe and a pair of aces from Lindsey. Momentum shifted back to the other side when Womack and Grissett had back-to-back kills for a 16-15 margin. Lindsey cut the deficit to 18-17 with a kill until Grissett pushed the lead back to three at 21-18. Opp held on down the stretch as Straughn only managed one more point, and it set up a winner-take-all frame.

Straughn’s Blakeley Smith, right, follows through on one of her 12 kills as Opp’s Cuba Wiggins defends. (PHOTO BY ZACK MAIO)

Nelson gave Straughn a 2-0 lead with an ace before Smith pushed the advantage to 5-0 with a kill. Womack put Opp on the board with a kill, but Lindsey took the score to 7-2. Blackstock closed the gap to 7-4, and Womack brought the Lady Bobcats even at 10-10. Jackson had a kill for an 11-10 lead as Hall executed a huge kill for match point at 14-11. The Lady Tigers survived after an attack error and capped an exciting area match between the two rivals.

Smith led Straughn with 12 kills and two blocks. Hall and Jackson also finished in double digits with 10 kills. Nelson had three kills, five aces, and four digs, while Howe earned seven kills, three aces, and 10 assists. Lindsey collected five kills and two blocks, and Thai notched eight kills in the win.

Womack paced Opp with a career-high 18 kills in the loss. Wiggins earned four kills and two blocks. Megan Pinson had a season-high 42 digs and was followed by Crislyn Birge and Shelby Greenacre with 23 and 20 digs, respectively. Madie Wilson contributed 28 assists and 15 digs.

Both teams earned home sweeps Thursday, Sept. 14, as Opp defeated Kinston 3-0, and Straughn took down Pike County 3-0 in area play. The Lady Bobcats will compete in the Enterprise Invitational Tournament with four matches on Saturday, Sept. 16. The Lady Tigers will travel to Pleasant Home on Monday, Sept. 18.