The Havelock High volleyball team was within one point — twice — of getting its first victory of the year.
Jacksonville managed to hold off the challenge and beat the Rams 22-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-13 and 19-17 in a Coastal 3A Conference match Tuesday at Havelock High.
It may not have been the victory Havelock coach Amy McCutcheon has been searching for, but she took some comfort in her team’s improved play.
"Definitely all around, we were much improved," she said. "Everybody played much better. I feel like it was a win just because there was so much improvement from where we’ve been, and we didn’t give it up. I definitely see that as a success."
In the fifth and final game, the Cardinals (5-6, 3-2) fell behind 11-5 before charging back. Kayla Malu started the comeback with an ace, and Cassie Padilla added a kill. Emily Rideout’s service winner knotted the game at 12-12.
Havelock got two match points, but the Rams (0-9, 0-5) hit the ball into the net on one, and saw a kill from Jacksonville’s Kayla Wallace eliminate another.
Jacksonville had two match points of its own, but Hailey White and Sha’Nice Frazier thwarted both with kills.
Jacksonville finally won it 19-17 on Malu’s service winner.
"It’s frustrating, but it happens. It’s the game," McCutcheon said of the losing the late lead.
The Rams won the first two games, but then lost the next two, but Havelock got its competitiveness back for the final game.
"We asked them if they wanted to win, then they would play like they wanted to win," McCutcheon said. "Knowing that it was in our house, if they wanted to win, they were going to fight for it and fight for each other. That brought them together."
The Rams showed improved play in the first two games, as Tempestt Frazier started strong with a block and a kill, and then followed with an ace on her serve to lift the Rams to an 8-4 lead.
Jacksonville fought back to tie the match at 22-22 behind kills by Rideout, Keenan Marks and Wallace, but Frazier and White had strong hits, and the Cardinals put game point into the net, giving the Rams the early lead, 25-22.
In the second game, back-to-back kills by Frazier put Havelock in front 17-12. Jacksonville closed to within 23-22 on Rideout’s serve, but the Rams closed it out on Camaryn Singleton’s service to win the second game 25-22.
"We played awesome," McCutcheon said. "We didn’t want to give it up. We fought all the way. That was one of our best matches so far."
In the third game, Jacksonville trailed 15-9, but Rideout took over at the service stripe, winning six straight points as the Cardinals surged to a 20-16 lead. Wallace’s block sealed the game for Jacksonville, 25-19.
In the fourth game, Jacksonville dominated, scoring seven straight points midway through and rolling to the 25-13 victory.
"We had a rough start," Jacksonville coach Melinda Rakes said. "We by far shanked more balls than we have ever shanked and missed more serves than we have ever missed.
"But, all in all, they pulled it together and they fought and they won. So now they know what it feels like to fight and win, and now I know that they can."
Havelock is next scheduled to play West Carteret today at Havelock, with the junior varsity starting at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity to follow.