Ayden-Grifton continues ECC streak in win over West Craven

Ayden-Grifton continues ECC streak in win over West Craven

Ayden-Grifton’s Emma Jones, right, meets West Craven’s Harmony Campbell in the air during Tuesday’s match. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News

AYDEN — Ayden-Grifton is still working on growing together, which could be dangerous for the rest of the Eastern Carolina Conference.

The Chargers defeated West Craven 25-21, 25-21, 25-16 Tuesday in their conference opener. Ayden-Grifton (5-3, 1-0 ECC) has won 18 straight in the ECC, as the team hasn’t lost to a conference foe since a trip to South Lenoir on Sept. 28, 2017. The Blue Devils are also the last ECC team to win at Bob Murphrey Gym, coming on Oct. 8, 2015.

Despite keeping up a pair of impressive streaks, Chargers coach Linda Bryant said there’s plenty of room for improvement for the two-time defending ECC champions.

“We started slow and I had to talk to the girls about having an aggressive mindset every game,” Bryant said. “In order to be the team we need to be, we have to pick it up throughout no matter the opponent. When people see the box score of the game, we want them to think ‘man, Ayden-Grifton really has it going on,’ and we haven’t done that.”

Emily Dykes had a pair of kills as Ayden-Grifton got off to a 3-1 start. A service ace from Abby Langemann helped the Chargers extend the lead to 16-9, but the Eagles (2-4, 0-2) fought back and got within 22-20 on Harmony Campbell’s ace. Ultimately, the Chargers pulled off the win in the first set.

The Chargers faced their greatest test in the second set. Dykes had three kills during an 8-3 run to start the set and a spike from Alexia Bryant put Ayden-Grifton ahead 15-9, but West Craven roared back. A pair of service aces from Caroline Kawatski and two Lexi McCoy kills highlighted a 9-2 to put the Eagles ahead. The teams traded points and while Autumn Williams’ ace tied it at 21 for West Craven, Ayden-Grifton scored the final four, highlighted by Dykes’ kill.

“It’s the beginning of the conference schedule and you don’t want to start it off with a loss,” Dykes said. “Coach Bryant told us to pick it up, and we did.”

The teams traded the first six points in the third set before the Chargers scored six straight — highlighted by two Aaleyah Garris service aces, along with kills from Dykes and Bryant — to garner separation. A Kayla Simmons block brought the West Craven within 10-7, but Ayden-Grifton followed with a 12-2 run to put the game away.

Eagles coach Billy Dudding said the team is still developing, but there’s plenty of ability.

“We’ve got a good group that’s young in a sense,” Dudding said. “They’ve got room to grow, and the biggest thing is they’re not as confident because they don’t know how good they can be yet. There isn’t a big difference between us and Ayden-Grifton — they exploited our weaknesses and we didn’t do the same, but it’s back to the drawing board as we get ready for Kinston Thursday.”

Ayden-Grifton takes on Wilmington Ashley on the road Wednesday before Washington hosts the Chargers Thursday.

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