Back in action for their second of three straight games on Wednesday night, the Midway volleyball squad hosted its toughest opponent by far on the season in undefeated East Duplin. The Lady Raiders entered the contest in unfamiliar territory, having lost three straight and staring down the barrel of a legitimate risk of losing a fourth with the powerful Lady Panthers, who have only lost one set in 14 games.
Midway, though, had a surprise up their sleeve. The Lady Raiders stormed out of the gate in the first set, seemingly taking the wind right out of East Duplin’s sails, and went on to dethrone the conference-leading Lady Panthers, 3-1.
The Raiders led early at 12-3. Later, that lead stood at 15-7 before the Lady Panthers chipped away a little to make it 16-10. The Lady Raiders reestablished their footing to go back ahead 19-11. Displaying their abilities, East Duplin pulled to within 19-14 but Midway hung on for the 25-18 set win to go ahead 1-0.
The second set started out with East Duplin taking a slight lead at 4-2, but things were about change drastically. With Sydney Williams serving, hard times were about to befall the Lady Panthers. Williams served up a furious rally for her Lady Raiders as Midway scored 12 unanswered points to make it 16-4 before East Duplin could finally stop the bleeding.
But once again, the Lady Panthers showed that they too are capable of making runs of their own. Suddenly, the momentum seemed to swing as East Duplin began chipping away at the big lead. After falling behind by as much as 21-9, things tightened quickly as the visitors side of the scoreboard really started creeping up. East Duplin pulled to within 21-17 before Midway regained some composure to push the margin to 24-18. Still, though, the Lady Panthers continued to fight as they drew back to within 24-21. Midway tallied the set-winning point, though, to pull ahead at 2-0 after winning 25-21 in set number two.
The third set, unfortunately, would be marred by some controversy. Looking to pitch an impressive shutout against their fearsome opponent, Midway fell slightly behind at the beginning of the set. To add insult to injury, a highly-protested rotation infraction was assessed against Midway. This helped spark the Lady Panthers, who turned a 6-3 lead into a 13-5 lead as the Lady Raiders suddenly seemed to be reeling from the call.
Head coach Brandy Wrench signaled for a timeout, hoping to settle her team and not the game slip away.
The timeout proved effective as Midway pulled back to within 15-10 which yielded another timeout by East Duplin. Scoring went back and forth with the Lady Raiders scoring a couple at a time with East Duplin scores scattered about. Finally, the trading of scores resulted in a tie game at 20-20. East Duplin, though, pulled back ahead to at 22-20 for another Midway time out.
Out of the timeout, the Lady Raiders time the game right back up at 22-22. East Duplin again picked up two more points to make it 24-22 before Midway made it 24-23. This time, however, East Duplin claimed the last point to win 25-23 to make it 2-1 and force game four.
Game number four proved to be a spectacular affair that saw the true heart and determination on display by both teams.
The two teams duked it out early as 4-4 tie was the early result. The teams then traded the lead a couple times before Midway gained some separation at 10-7. Midway then made it 14-10 to prompt the Lady Panthers to call for a timeout. The teams resumed the process of trading points as the score reached 18-13 in favor of Midway to force another East Duplin timeout.
The Lady Raiders pushed the lead even further at 19-13 as the sweet smell of victory was starting to flow in. But, the contest was far from over. The Lady Panthers proved why they are an undefeated team. A quick three points from the visitor to make it 19-16 forced coach Wrench to signal for timeout to try and regroup her team.
Out of the timeout, Midway reclaimed two points to make it 21-16, but again, back came the Lady Panthers as they drew back to within 22-21. Midway reached match point at 24-22, but still, East Duplin wouldn’t go away. With time running out, the Lady Panthers finally succeeded in catching up the Lady Raiders as the match was all-square at 24-24.
Midway again got to match point at 25-24 but East Duplin picked up two straight points to make it 26-25. Keeping to the script, the Lady Raiders notched two points to go back ahead at 27-26. Both teams continued to fight as they commenced to trading points. The score would be tied each time at 27-27, 28-28, 29-29, and 30-30. Each time Midway would lead and East Duplin answered. The Lady Panthers, though, finally ran out of gas. The Lady Raiders secured two straight points to finally win at 32-30 to win the match 3-1.
After the game, Wrench was ecstatic with her team and the win.
“What an awesome game tonight. East Duplin is a great team and we know it, so we knew we had to bring it tonight,” Wrench said.
“The prior game at East Duplin, we saw some things that we remembered and used that to set up our game plan. The girls talked out every scenario and utilized the best option we had going up against them.”
“I am proud of all the girls. They all cheered each other on, they played aggressively and hustled 110 percent. We knew we wanted to redeem ourselves from the first game this season at their place and we did just that. We passed well, set great, and executed our plays. I think tonight was the best night of setting we’ve had all season. Overall, it was an exciting night and was a game well worth the admission price,” Wrench concluded.
Leading the charge for Midway was Alyssa Wrench with a monstrous 29 kills and five blocks. Williams added 15 serve points, 16 assists, and nine aces. Erin Barefoot contributed seven blocks.
With the win, Midway improves to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in East Central Conference play. Midway was scheduled to be back in action on Thursday at James Kenan.
Reach Sports Editor Daron Barefoot at [email protected]