BURGAW – Just after his retirement as the coach of the Pender High School volleyball team the administration at Pender deemed it right to name the volleyball court at Pender the Ray Horton Volleyball Court – a fitting tribute for their longtime coach who led the Lady Patriots to back-to-back NCHSAA 1A state titles in 2009 and 2010.
Monday night Horton returned as a volunteer assistant coach for the Lady Bulldogs of Wallace-Rose Hill in the first round of the Tri-County 1A Conference volleyball tournament, and well some of his previous players – now playing in college – like Jessica Sanabria (Randolph) and Haley Lanier (Catawba) welcomed their former coach back with smiles and hugs, the current members of the Lady Patriots volleyball team weren’t nearly as hospitable.
Senior Kayvia Thompson had 10 kills and nine aces, junior Jackie Sanabra had 22 assists and two aces, and senior K. B. Hansley had six kills and five aces as Pender dismantled Wallace-Rose Hill 3-0 (25-9, 26-24, 25-12) on Monday in the opening round of the Tri-County 1A Conference Tournament on the Ray Horton Volleyball Court at Pender.
Pender (16-5) now moves on to face James Kenan, the No. 3 seed, at 5:00 p.mn. today (Tuesday) at Union. James Kenan beat Hobbton 3-1 (25-14, 19-25, 27-25, 25-23). Lakewood, who tied with Pender for the regular-season title, defeated Union 3-0 (25-8, 25-14, 25-10). The Lady Leopards will face Midway, a 3-2 (25-20, 20-25, 11-25, 25-20, 15-12) winner over Trask, at Union approximately 30 minutes after the Pender vs. James Kenan match.
The winners of the two games tonight will meet on Wednesday for the conference tournament and – most likely – the top seed out of the conference in the upcoming NCHSAA 1A state tournament, which begins on Saturday.
“It was pretty much what I expected,” Pender Coach Matt Davis said. “We played well without the crowd being in it too much and I told the girls that’s what we will have to do in the playoffs, especially if we have to go on the road.”
While the second game was close from a scoring standpoint, the match was really more defined by the first and third games. The Lady Bulldogs almost looked like a deer in a the headlights as Pender took a 5-2 lead early, increased it to 9-4 then to 14-5 before putting the icing on the cake with a 10-point run.
Thompson was on serve in the 10-pointer and she had four aces to go along a kill and two kills from Hansley. Pender had 24 aces on the night as Wallace struggled mightily with the serve/receive.
Davis opted to rest his starters at the beginning of the second game and the Lady Bulldogs took advantage a bit, although the Pender second unit – with two girls (Alli Crist and Gelleana Mendez) up from the junior-varsity for the tournament and the playoffs on the floor – played well.
The game was close, and actually tied at 8-8, 10-10, and 12-12, before Wallace went on a six-point surge to open an 18-13 lead. That is when Davis went back to the first unit, and that group outscored the Lady Bulldogs 13-6 the rest of the way in securing a two-point victory. Thompson was again on serve with Pender down 24-21 and she served out the match with two aces, two unforced mistakes by Wallace, and a kill by Hansley.
“We played with the younger girls because from here on the rotation is going to get tighter and I wanted them to get some playing time, and they played well,” Davis said. “When they got up by five I decided to put the starters back in just so they could get their legs back under them for the third game, and they got on a roll to pull it out.”
With a potential three games in three days and the state tournament on Saturday, the starters were back on the court for the third game because Davis did not want to see a fourth game.
That game lost its competitiveness early as Pender jumped out to early leads of 5-1 and 10-2 before a three-point run and a five-point spurt provided Davis and the Lady Patriots with a 19-4 advantage, at which point mass substitutions ensued.
Now Pender must get ready for James Kenan, a team they beat 3-1(25-14, 25-18, 16-25, 25-20) on Sept. 4 at James Kenan, and 3-0 (25-13, 25-9, 25-8) at Pender on Sept. 27.
Tradition says it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season, and Davis knows his girls will have to be at the top of their game if they want to be playing for that No. 1 seed on Wednesday.
“We know they have a very good middle hitter and blocker, and they’re dangerous if they get the pass to the setter and she (the hitter) gets her opportunities,” Davis said. “We just have to avoid making silly mistakes and make sure we cover her up at the net and I think we’ll be okay.”
Pender: Kayvia Thompson 10 kills, 9 aces, 5 digs; Alyssa Carter 4 kills, 2 blocks, 3 aces; Ruby Gasca 1 kill, 1 ace; Katy Stewart 5 assists; Brenee’ Jones 1 dig; K. B. Hansley 6 kills, 5 aces; Cassidy Miller 3 aces, 2 digs; Brianna Pittman 5 kills, 2 blocks; Jackie Sanabria 22 assists, 2 aces; Meghan Cleary 1 kill; Amber Pyland 2 kills; Hannah Peterson 1 ace; Gelleana Mendez 1 kill; Journey Knowles 1 kill, 1 block.
WRH: Brittany Scarborough 1 kill; Kamryn Sessoms 3 kills; Hailey Williams 1 kill, 1 ace; Halee Knowles 5 kills; Allis Aycock 2 aces, 1 block; Jamira Henry 2 kills; Reagan Page 1 kill; Amber Dixon 2 aces.