Wilkes Central High School Athletics


Vikes stay hot, top Eagles


Last week, North Wilkes defeated a perennial Mountain Valley Athletic Conference powerhouse to start the league slate. Tuesday night, the Vikings followed that big win with a big test on the road against a bitter cross-county rival. The Vikings passed the test in Moravian Falls, but it wasn’t easy, as North Wilkes fought past the Wilkes Central Eagles for the 3-1 conference victory. The Eagles took early leads in both the first and second sets, only to see the Vikings battle back and take those games 25-18, 25-16. “Slow start, strong finish,” said Vikings’ Head Coach Kim Harrison of the initial sets. But Wilkes Central, 3-6 overall and 0-2 in the MVAC, did not quit and pushed the Vikings to the limit in a back-and-forth third set that was tied as late as 20-all after a kill attempt from North’s Tyler Johnston slammed into the net. That miscue came with Central’s Jordan Ellis on serve and gave the home team the one-point lead. Ellis helped her squad corral the momentum in the set with a sparkling five-point run that included a kill and a block from Holly Swofford, a point at the net from Allison Parker and an ace. North’s Taitum Cothren finally broke Ellis’ serve with a win at the net over Parker. With her team down 24-21, Cothren took over serve with one last chance to pull her squad to the third-set win. She almost pulled it off. A kill from Sapphire Nichols and a tap-over from Avery Wood cut the visitor’s deficit to one and forced Central Head Coach Ashley Clonch to use a timeout. Central regrouped, and a kill from Swofford ended the game at 25-23. Harrison, whose team improved to 6-2 and 2-0 after defeating Starmount last week, had a succinct message for her team between games three and four. “I just got in the huddle and told them, ‘I trust you’ll take care of this set,’ and walked out,” said Harrison. Message received. Raygan Casstevens started out the set on serve for the Vikings and accounted for five straight points. Nice points from Cothren bookended a Casstevens ace, and another kill from Cothren from the middle made the score 6-0 before Central broke serve. The lead ballooned to 11-1 behind a run from Brooke Farrington, and that was the margin for most of the rest of the game. The teams traded points, but Central was unable to cut significantly into the deficit, and the Vikings ended the match with a 25-13 win. Both coaches remarked afterwards on the strength of the potent Vikings’ front line — one of the key differences Tuesday evening. “When we’re playing at full speed, running our routes well, and when we’re getting good sets, I feel very good about any of our front line players knowing what to do with the ball,” said Harrison. “We have length, we have athleticism and we have kids with decent verticals,” continued Harrison. “When we’re consistently playing within the system, we’re hard to defend.” “In their second rotation, they have a player the caliber of Avery Wood, who is one heck of a player,” said Clonch of the Vikings’ middle hitter. “She was really good last year on JV. She came in and got some solid swings on the ball. We really struggled against her. “But we have four seniors on this team who are busting their butts day-in and day-out to not lose,” continued Clonch. “I think we’re going to surprise some people. I think we surprised North in set three.” Wilkes Central continued to play without the services of libero Lacey Triplett, who is expected to practice Wednesday. “Lacey plays every sport hard,” said Clonch. “She makes everyone around her better. But I thought Bre Adams did a great job in that role tonight.” Harrison praised the work of setter Casstevens, who continues to improve on the technical side of the job. “She is very coachable and really gets better every day. If you single any one thing out for her to work on in practice, you’ll see the improvement in that particular area in the next game,” said Harrison. The Vikings turn around quickly for a road contest against North Surry today. The Greyhounds are 5-1, and continue North’s non-conference schedule of tough opponents. North Surry is also Harrison’s alma mater, and she will face them as coach for the first time. The Eagles, meanwhile, again face a county rival on Thursday as they travel to Millers Creek to play West Wilkes. “They are a very competitive team,” said Clonch of the Blackhawks. “But that’s this league from top-to-bottom. Starmount and Alleghany have great coaches, and are always going to be tough to beat. North is good, East and West are good, and I think we’re going to be pretty good, too.”