Triton volleyball this season has been like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.
The Hawks (8-10) have seen lots of highs and lows this year, but they might have had their biggest win Monday in a 3-2 victory at home over bitter rival South Johnston by set scores of 25-23, 15-25, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-13.
“When we went to South, we lost on their home court,” said Triton senior Breigh Hobbs. “So immediately, we knew we had to get revenge on our home court. That was very important to us.”
Evie Pollard had 12 kills and two blocks and Hobbs had nine kills and four aces to lead the Hawks.
Bethany Norris had nine kills and two blocks. Tyler Grace Gamblin and Leah Brannon had five kills each. Breonna McNeill had one kill and three blocks. Gracyn Slaughter had two kills. Chelby Pascale had a kill and two aces. Sydney Morrison had a kill and an ace. Grace Wilson had one kill. Maddie Stephens had one ace.
“I can honestly say it was a total team effort,” said Triton coach Wendy Simmons. “Because all 11 of them at some point in time played and different ones stepped up at different times.”
One of those players stepping up was Morrison. After spending most of the season coming off the bench, Morrison saw a large uptick in playing time at setter Monday. In a nerve-wracking match with lots of energy and emotion, Morrison was a steady presence for the Hawks.
“I think tonight I learned how to have fun and be confident,” Morrison said. “I know I used to be scared and didn’t think I was going to play my best, so tonight I really tried to be confident and get all my serves in and just played my best... It was [tough] at times but you just have to keep calm, because if you get nervous you start playing bad, so I just tried to stay calm.”
Another difference-maker for Triton is the gradual return of Gamblin, who injured her ankle in an earlier win over Midway. She’s slowly getting back to 100%, and her play down the stretch was crucial in the win over South.
“It’s getting to the point where I go through the entire game without thinking about it,” Gamblin said. “There may be points where I come down from a block and I get nervous about coming down on it wrong. Especially in the Harnett Central game (in the first game back from injury) I was so nervous to come down on it, so there’s pictures of me setting with one foot in the air. But really I don’t focus on it so I think that’s a big change.”
Hobbs, who had to spend more time setting while Gamblin was hindered, also felt the effects of Gamblin’s return to normalcy.
“Going from hitting and setting with her — we shared it, we ran a 6-2 (rotation) — and then going to a 5-1 immediately with her getting hurt and me having to take that up, it kind of throws me off a little bit,” Hobbs said. “But with her getting back to being healthy again, I really like playing back row and I really like hitting. I feel like I’m more versatile there.”
The contrast between when the Hawks play well and when they play poorly is stark. When things are going well, there’s a fun, exciting energy about the team, and they’re capable of beating anyone on their schedule. But when things aren’t going so well, the frustration is visible and often leads to missed serves, missed hits and missed opportunities.
“We haven’t really been working together as much as I know we could,” Gamblin said. “So this game was all about us trying to come together... Just making sure we stay up and out of all of our mistakes. Just make sure we put those behind us and focus on the next point.”
As for South, it’s another hard loss. After winning 10 of their first 11 games, the Trojans (13-6) have lost five of their last eight, four of those coming in Greater Neuse Conference play.
That’s in spite of the play of junior Katon Blackmon, who had a game-high 19 kills along with three aces. Other standouts for South were Leeanna Hines with nine kills and four blocks; Jenna Brown with three kills, seven blocks and three assists; Jordyn Brown with six kills and one block; and Carlye Durham with five kills and one block.
Triton followed up Monday’s win with a visit from Tri-County Conference foe Southern Lee on Tuesday, while South traveled to Greater Neuse rival West Johnston.