LUMBERTON — Even with eight experienced seniors on her team, Purnell Swett volleyball coach Courtney Hill could see the nerves building throughout Thursday’s 3-2 win at Lumberton.
The lower bleachers near the court left few open seats and vocal fans, including a white board toting student section, hung on every point as the two county rivals went back-and-forth on the scoreboard.
“Whenever we’d get in the huddle, I’d see wandering eyes,” Hill said. “They’d try to look up into the stands and I’d say ‘Regroup girls, you’re losing focus, you’ve got to stay in it,’ and I think that was the determining factor: They were all in it.”
The Rams won the match 16-25, 25-23, 25-11, 23-25, 15-12.
“I thought we fought hard but when it came down to the end stretch they executed better than we did,” Lumberton coach Jeff McLamb said.
Both teams had their moments throughout the match, but much of Swett’s success came behind the hitting duo of Jamee Bird and Taylor Locklear.
In the first set, the two struggled to hit past Lumberton’s blocks, but found their stride the rest of the match. In the deciding fifth game Bird had five kills and one ace. Otherwise the duo largely split duty in the second and third sets.
“It was hard at first to catch our rhythm because the block got in our heads, but we pushed through,” Bird said.
Hill said the hitting success came because of the seniors’ experience.
“They took it upon themselves and started running different plays,” she said. “A lot them have the knowledge of the game, you don’t have to tell them ‘You have to run this play.’ They think it on their own.”
The Rams’ success didn’t stop the Pirates from making runs of their own.
On senior night, it was Lumberton junior Kayla Kerns that found many of the big kills. She was responsible for key points during Lumberton’s first set and had four kills during the fourth set, including the set-point to send it to the fifth.
She finished the match with 10 of Lumberton’s 36 kills.
“She hit it good tonight and I thought that was the difference from last time (against Swett) to this time,” McLamb said. “We didn’t hit the ball last time and tonight we swung at them and were aggressive.”
Senior Katlyn Singltary finished with eight kills, many of which were softer hits that landed away from Swett’s clusters.
Lumberton posted several comebacks during the match. The Pirates trailed by 18-11 in the second set and later tied it 21-21 before taking a lead. In the fourth set, the Pirates trailed 13-6 and didn’t tie it until 21-21, as they made a five-point run that gave them a 23-21 lead.
The match ended the regular season for both teams, who will play in the Southeastern Conference tournament starting Monday. Lumberton will host Richmond and Purnell Swett will host Hoke in the first round.
Lumberton soccer beats Hoke
LUMBERTON — A day after being upset by Richmond, the Lumberton soccer team got back on the winning track with a 1-0 home win against Hoke.
The Pirates (11-5, 6-2 SEC) scored their lone goal on a 25-yard free kick by Jace Ward in the first half and held the Bucks (8-9, 4-4 SEC) at bay for the rest of the game, despite a late offensive push.
“Being down 1-0 late they had to throw things forward and put a bit of risk out there in their game,” coach Kenny Simmons said. “They put us under quite a bit of pressure and fortunately for us we withstood it tonight.”
Lumberton goalie Ricardo Leal had six saves.
Swett falls to Richmond
PEMBROKE — There was a danger of having a letdown after its upset victory the night before but the Richmond soccer stayed on a roll in a 9-0 win at Purnell Swett on Thursday. The Raiders scored four times in the first half and added five more in 28 minutes of action in the second half.