Ayden-Grifton volleyball defeats Croatan, heads to the fourth round
AYDEN | Ayden-Grifton is back and seemingly better.
For the second straight year, the Chargers are heading to the NCHSAA 2A fourth round after Saturday’s 25-19, 25-18, 25-16 victory over Croatan. Ayden-Grifton (23-1) is now on a 23-game winning streak and hasn’t dropped a set in the postseason, trailing for only six points against the Cougars (13-4).
Chargers coach Linda Bryant said it wasn’t easy, but the team was up for the challenge.
“We needed this competition and I thought we played well,” Bryant said. “We have to continue stepping up in the playoffs and playing tougher opponents will help us in the upcoming rounds.”
Zion Hardy started the game with a kill and Emily Dykes followed with a block as Ayden-Grifton went on a 7-2 run. The Chargers would go up by as many as 10 and while the Cougars got within 22-18, Hardy would finish the set with a kill to give Ayden-Grifton the 1-0 advantage.
“We just came out, played hard and were excited to get back into the fourth round,” Hardy said.
Croatan scored the first point of the second set, but Dykes would have a service ace, kill and a block in a 5-1 run to give Ayden-Grifton control. The Cougars got within 9-7, but another 5-1 Ayden-Grifton run provided additional separation. Dykes would showcase her versatility in the set with three aces, two blocks and two kills, including a spike to end the set emphatically.
“We just tried to get rid of our nerves and work on accomplishing our goals,” Dykes said. “We knew (Croatan) was going to be better than most teams we’ve played, so we had the mindset of playing our best game of the year.”
Croatan took a 3-1 lead in the third set, but Ayden-Grifton used a 6-1 run — highlighted by a Dykes ace — to swing momentum. The Cougars got within one, but the Chargers broke the set open with a 12-1 run, including three kills from Alexia Bryant. Croatan would stave off five straight match points, but Aaleyah Garris’ kill ended the game and has the Chargers matching up against either Wheatmore or Goldsboro in the fourth round.
“We’ve got a team that’s really focused on winning and ready to get to the state championship game,” Bryant said. “We had to knock this one out.”
The Chargers will host the fourth round contest Tuesday. The time has not yet been determined.