Ayden-Grifton clinches share of third straight EC2A title
AYDEN — It took an early wakeup call, but Ayden-Grifton got back to work for an important victory.
The Chargers defeated South Lenoir 14-25, 25-8, 25-17, 25-14 Thursday to clinch a share of their third consecutive Eastern Carolina 2A Conference title. Ayden-Grifton (14-5, 9-0) hadn’t won one since 1976 prior to this streak and can take the outright title Tuesday with a victory at North Lenoir.
“Where I come from, North Pitt, I had three conference championships there,” Ayden-Grifton coach Linda Bryant said. “This is probably going to be my last year, so I guess I met the accolades here (as well). I appreciate everyone’s help, input and support.”
Ayden-Grifton’s Holly Cannon had an ace to start the game, but South Lenoir (12-4, 7-3) was determined to flip the script. Mary Grace Beyer’s kill, followed by Jessica Harris’ ace sparked a 5-1 run the Blue Devils wouldn’t relinquish. Michaela Elmore’s two aces sandwiched a Beyer block to put South Lenoir ahead 14-6, and while an Aale’Yah Garris’ kill brought Ayden-Grifton within four, another Beyer block and Alyssa Kopanski kill highlighted a 7-0 set closing run by the Blue Devils.
The Chargers went up 4-0 in the second set, but the Blue Devils scored the next four to tie it. Emily Dykes immediately followed with a kill, sparking a 20-2 run which included four kills each from Garris and Alexia Bryant. Dykes’ spike would end the set in dominant fashion.
“I just had to tell them ‘we can play better than this,’” Bryant said after the first set. “Yes, it’s South Lenoir — they are a good team — but I know we’re better than they are, so let’s show them that we can play.”
Cannon started the third set with an ace as the Chargers jumped out to a 5-2 lead. South Lenoir tied the game after scoring the next three points, but two aces and a kill from Bryant were part of a 5-1 spurt. The Blue Devils got within 14-13, but the Chargers answered with a 7-0 run, highlighted by two Abby Langemann aces, to take control.
In the fourth set, a Beyer kill and Mallory Dawson ace sparked a 5-1 start, but Dykes had three aces during a 10-0 spurt to put Ayden-Grifton ahead 12-7. South Lenoir would get within 15-12, but a Dykes kill and Cannon ace started a streak of eight unanswered that the Blue Devils wouldn’t recover from.
South Lenoir coach Lisa Smith said she appreciated the team’s efforts.
“We’ve got a lot of talent here and we can hang with anyone when we want to,” Smith said. “Ayden’s got a great team, and we do too — the girls definitely played hard and we’re getting better every day.”
The Blue Devils will travel to Washington Tuesday.