Wilkes Central High School Athletics


Eagles battle back


Things were not looking too good for the Wilkes Central volleyball team midway through Wednesday night’s nonconference contest. After allowing a first set lead slip away and being soundly defeated in the second set, the Eagles found themselves trailing Surry Central by a point on the verge of losing the set and the match. But Wilkes Central battled back to capture the set and went on to win the next two for a thrilling 3-2 victory against the Golden Eagles in Moravian Falls. The win, Wilkes Central’s second of the fall, came two days after knocking off Hibriten in four sets. On Wednesday, the Eagles lost the first two sets 25-21 and 25-16 but battled back to win the last three, 28-26, 25-18 and 15-11. “Last year we struggled to get a couple of wins in a row and here we are, two wins in a row so we’re 2-3 now we go to South Stokes (Thursday) that we lost to in five,” Wilkes Central Head Coach Ashley Clonch said. “We didn’t have Allison (Parker) that game so we have a good chance to go 3-0 this week, which would be fabulous.” Wilkes Central led by as many as seven at 20-13 in the first set following a Holly Swofford block but Surry Central strung together the 11 straight points and turned the deficit into a four-point lead (24-20) following a dump shot from Taylor Coe. The Golden Eagles maintained around a six-point cushion in the second set and pushed the lead to as many as 11 at 23-12 after a Jenna Simpson ace. “We played that first game really well and all of a sudden we’re up 20-14 and they came back and ended up beating us,” said Clonch. “Technically, it should have been a three or four-game set and not five games but the best part about this team is we don’t back down. We may look like we’re about to quit but somewhere along the line, they find it deep inside them that they want to win.” The third set served as a turning point for both teams as they were tied through the first 22 points. Jordan Ellis pushed the Eagles ahead 15-11 on the strength of three straight aces, which prompted Surry Central to call a timeout. The Golden Eagles (1-5) tied the set at 20 on a Tara Blevins kill but Wilkes Central regained the advantage with three straight kills from Kailey McNeil. Ellis finished with four aces, with her final one putting the Eagles ahead 26-25 in the set, and she felt the third set showed what the team can do when it works as a unit. A kill from Molly Brown and a serve-receive error closed out the set. “I was feeling nervous in the third set because we were down but we came back as a team and we played well,” said Ellis. “I think this helps us build together as a team and come back tomorrow ready to win again.” When asked what the difference between the first two sets and the last three were, Surry Central Head Coach Carrie Bruce pointed to momentum. Tied at 13 in the fourth set, the Eagles scored the next six points but the Golden Eagles cut the deficit down to three at 20-17 following a pair of attack errors. Surry Central would not get any closer as the Eagles closed out the set with five of the final six points. “Our momentum changed. We just got lazy and we couldn’t take care of the ball anymore. We underestimated them,” said Bruce. “We have a strong group of girls who have all the talent in the world but this is a mental game just as a much as it is a physical one, so we’ve got to work on that.” In the fifth set, Wilkes Central took advantage of errors by Surry Central to gain an early 6-2 advantage. The Golden Eagles tied the set at six on the strength of a Jenna Simpson ace and a Taylor Coe dump shot. From there, McNeil took over and scored five of her team’s 15 points. The Eagles, who will host West Stokes next Tuesday, completed the comeback win with a dump shot from Ellis and a Tori Fowler ace. Clonch, who is in her third season as the Eagles’ head coach, felt her four seniors stepped up at key times on Wednesday and she hopes that will continue as the season progresses. “They’re great. Allison’s really come on, she’s taking pride in the season and Kailey is too ­— both of them are playing front row, back row, doing double duty,” said Clonch. “Molly’s hitting has gotten so much better and Brooke (McNeil) has just all of a sudden decided that she wants to do everything. “I’ve got four fabulous seniors who want to go out with a bang.”