After opening with a 15-point victory in the first set, White Oak had to battle from behind late in the next two sets, but the Vikings managed to do just that to sweep past Havelock in the Coastal 3A Conference volleyball opener for both teams.
Led by senior Emily McLain, the Vikings won 25-10, 25-22, 25-21 on Tuesday at White Oak.
“I think it was pretty strong for us because we have a lot of young players,” said McLain, who had 7 kills, 5 hits and 4 blocks. “We kept trying to keep each other confident, and the score was going back and forth a lot. So we just kind of wanted to capitalize on the good passes and really finish.”
Time and again McLain stepped up for the Vikings (2-0, 1-0) when the Rams (0-3, 0-1) were ahead. In the second set one of her kills tied it at 11 and two others pulled White Oak within one, including 21-20 after the Vikings trailed 21-17.
And in the third set McLain had two hard kills as well as two other winners to help keep the Vikings close after they again fell behind by four points. She also had a big block that gave White Oak the lead for good at 21-20.
“(She) changed the momentum, absolutely,” coach Brenda Wickwire said. “Sometimes I have to admit we had to say in our huddle, ‘OK, Emily is our go-to girl right now. In this position we have to change the momentum so this is how it’s going to happen.’
“‘We’re not going to pass close to the net. Someone’s going to pass to that 10-foot line. That’s good enough. One of your setters, or whoever’s close, is going to put the ball in the air and Emily’s going to hit it,’ which is exactly what happened on the very next play.”
Asked about stepping up, McLain seemed a bit embarrassed at the praise while acknowledging as a senior it’s her job to do just that.
“I kind of wanted to step up,” she said. “I really wanted to kind of show my team I was confident so that they would kind of follow. I want them to know to never give up. We can’t let down at all because the game was so close.”
While the Vikings won the opening set handily, they trailed briefly early before a 10-0 run, with nine of the points coming as Destiny Batchelor served. Batchelor had an ace and a service winner — she finished with 13 service points — in the run that gave the Vikings a 13-5 lead.
McLain closed out the set with a kill.
The Rams led for much of the second set before the Vikings rallied, scoring the final three points on two straight aces by Brooke Humphrey and a service winner when the Rams let the ball fall after some miscommunication to claim the set and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third set was much of the same. White Oak trailed for much of the set and even after going up 18-15 saw the Rams come back to take a 20-18 lead on an ace by Airianna Thompson and a kill that went long by McLain.
But White Oak outscored Havelock 7-1 from there, with Natalie Mobley and Humphrey coming up with aces before a net ball gave the Vikings the match.
“I think what happened is the Havelock team actually picked it up a little bit (in the second and third sets),” Wickwire said, “and we weren’t quite as accurate with our passes and we were struggling a little bit.
“I have two young setters out there. Both are sophomores, but one’s just got one year of experience. They were out there working and they were hustling and doing their best to make it happen.”
One key to the win, Wickwire said, was her team’s ability to control Havelock’s strong middle hitter, Sha’Nice Frazier, who finished with just 3 kills.
“She was the biggest threat,” Wickwire said. “We felt like if we could stop that girl — she hit really vicious stuff in warm-up — that we would probably be in the best shape.”
Beyond that, Wickwire was pleased with her team’s effort.
“There was tons of effort and tons of hustle,” she said. “And very little of the time did they forget their jobs.”
Camaryn Singleton had four kills to lead the Rams, while Mikala Roberts and Thompson had three kills each.
Havelock is next scheduled to host Swansboro on Thursday, with the junior varsity scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and the varsity to follow.