Greene Central defeats Eastern Wayne in five-set thriller

Greene Central defeats Eastern Wayne in five-set thriller

Greene Central’s Abby Burress goes up for a kill in Tuesday’s match against Eastern Wayne. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News

SNOW HILL — Greene Central had it, lost it, recovered it, nearly fell and ultimately boosted its record.

The Rams defeated Eastern Wayne in a five-set thriller 25-10, 22-25, 25-20, 17-25, 15-12. Greene Central (3-2) seemed to have the game under control early, but fought throughout and eventually ended the night with its best start to a season since going 4-1 in 2017.

“Eastern Wayne gave us a run for our money,” Rams coach Emily Nelson said. “They’re competitors and that’s what makes a good volleyball game. A first set like the one we had is great, but it’s not always realistic. We lost momentum, but were able to get it back.”

Greene Central coasted in the first set, going on a 9-1 run highlighted by a Daly Keel service ace. Eastern Wayne (0-3) wouldn’t get within seven for the remainder of the set, but took momentum in the second with a 5-0 start — including a pair of Ayanna Bynum blocks. Two more aces by Keel sparked a 6-0 answer by the Rams as the teams would combine for 12 ties and 10 lead changes in the set. A kill from Abby Burress put Greene Central up 21-20, but Eastern Wayne rebounded with five of the next six points to tie the game.

The Rams responded in the third set with the first four points and going up by as many as seven. The Warriors fought back and eventually got within 21-20, but Greene Central scored four straight to close it out, punctuated by Abby Vendemia’s kill. Eastern Wayne answered in the fourth set as a Samantha Johnson ace and Bynum block highlighted an 11-2 start for the Warriors. Greene Central got the deficit within four, but it wasn’t enough as a fifth set manifested.

Paige Neiman’s started the fifth set with a service ace and Eastern Wayne went up 3-0, but the Rams scored the next three, punctuated with a Keel ace. Bynum answered with a kill, but Greene Central went on a 5-0 run with Vendemia providing four consecutive aces.

“I was just really focused, had to take a deep breath and say ‘I got this,’” Vendemia said. “We had to play smart at the end.”

The Warriors tied the set three more times, including at 12 after a Vondalyn Swain service ace, but Vendemia had a kill on the next point and the Rams closed the match out.

“We just had to trust our teammates and not get down on ourselves — that’s where we make our most mistakes,” Burress said about the team’s recovery.

Eastern Wayne coach Anna Hajjar said this game could be helpful for the team’s mindset in the future.

“We’ve been preaching to the girls about confidence in passing, hits, blocks and serves,” Hajjar said. “We can tell them what to do, but can’t physically go out there and play the game for them. They’re starting to believe it, and I feel like this will be helpful later in the season.”

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