Lady Trojan comeback one for record book
New Kent Lady Trojan players and coaches rated their final regular season encounter with Grafton’s Clippers — a five-set, three overtime win — as one of the best victories in New Kent volleyball history. Now their latest disposal of the Clippers — another five-set triumph in last Thursday’s Bay Rivers District tournament semifinals — can be counted among the greatest comebacks of all time.
Down by two sets and trailing 9-3 in the third set of the best-of-five affair, the host Lady Trojans staged a furious comeback to salvage the third set and went on to capture the next two. It all translated into a 19-25, 25-27, 25-19, 25-21, 15-8 victory and a trip to the tourney final to face unbeaten Jamestown.
“It’s a good thing volleyball rules have changed so that matches are best three out of five,” a relieved Lady Trojan coach, Cyndi Burnett, said afterward. “If this had been best two out of three, we would have gone home a lot earlier.”
New Kent plodded out of the gate, committing uncharacteristic errors that worked to the Clippers’ advantage. Grafton built an 18-10 lead before back-to-back Jessica Phaup aces triggered a 5-0 New Kent run. But the hosts could not make up the earlier deficit and never got closer than three points.
“Out of [Grafton’s] 25 points, they probably earned five. Our passes were off and we just made too many mistakes,” Burnett said.
“We started off cold and just looked unemotional,” she added. “We gradually began to warm up in the second game, but we weren’t really able to get things going until the third game.”
An overtime loss in the second set coupled with Grafton’s early surge in the third placed New Kent on the brink of elimination. But a Sharda Braxton shot cut the Clipper lead to 9-4 and earned side out plus service for Phaup whose second ace in a 4-0 run trimmed the deficit to 9-8.
Grafton rebuilt a four-point advantage, but the hosts erased three on a pair of Ashton Wallace kills and a Courtney Jamerson block. New Kent grabbed its first lead at 14-13 on a Rachel Day ace, but could not stretch the advantage until Braxton’s kill off a Day assist followed by a Clipper net violation made it 21-18.
After Brie Baxley’s block on a Wallace spike, New Kent shut out the visitors the rest of the way behind a Wallace shot and Braxton’s serve that helped produce three straight Clipper shots that sailed out of bounds.
New Kent opened a 7-3 lead in the fourth set before Grafton rallied to overtake the hosts at 9-9. The set was knotted on seven more occasions before a Braxton block and Day’s ace put New Kent in front to stay at 22-20.
Grafton pulled back within one, but Day’s shot that handcuffed Clipper defender Morgan Hayes followed by a Jamerson block and a spike out of bounds by the Clippers’ Kelley Anderson sent the contest into a decisive fifth set.
New Kent dominated, jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead behind Casey O’Leary’s serve. Grafton closed to within one at 6-5, but the hosts scored the next three points and were never seriously threatened again. Wallace hammered the final spike between a pair of Clipper defenders to end the match.
“Our girls never gave up, and that’s been a trademark of these girls all year,” Burnett said.
Braxton and Wallace led New Kent at the net with 19 and 18 kills, respectively. Wallace also had three blocks while Jamerson added seven kills plus six blocks and Hillary Metheny registered eight kills and four blocks.
Day produced an astounding 50 assists, her personal best, and contributed seven kills. Phaup, meanwhile, had nine kills and five aces while O’Leary delivered four aces.
On defense, O’Leary led with 22 digs followed by Wallace’s 17 and 14 from Phaup.