SMITHFIELD — For both the Smithfield-Selma and South Johnston volleyball teams, the final night of the first regular season of play in the Two Rivers 3A Conference was not exactly what was scripted at the start of the season.
But for both senior-laden teams, the resolve displayed during the Trojans’ sweep (25-15, 25-16, 25-7) Thursday night went to further cement the seniors’ collective impact on their respective programs.
South Johnston responded well after a tough five-set loss just two days prior sealed their fate as finishing the season as the No. 4 seed, thus necessitating a conference tournament championship next week in order to make the state playoffs.
The Trojans looked at their final regular season match as a chance to get better and build some momentum heading into this week’s all-important tournament.
With a focus on picking up the offensive tempo, putting away free balls and moving feet on defense, South Johnston coach Matthew Adams was pleased with what he saw.
“We looked at today as a chance to get better, and prepare for next week and what we want to accomplish with the goal being winning a conference championship,” said Adams. “We looked at everything that we did today as carrying over into practice tomorrow and then the games next week.”
Senior Krista Collins had a great night behind the service line and delivered eight aces to spark the Trojans (12-8, 5-5).
Setter Kathryn Lee took turns picking out her hitters, often finding them in stride before the Spartans could coordinate a potential block, and finished with 20 assists.
“I was proud of our offense and how it was quick,” said Adams. “It really took them off guard when we were able to get those kills. Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to terminate the ball (in the tournament).”
Senior Alexis Massengill led South Johnston with eight kills. Emma Blackman added six kills and Chyann Ketchum finished with five.
Smithfield-Selma began its season with a successful nonconference slate that saw the Spartans enter conference play sporting a 5-4 record including wins over 4A teams East Wake and West Johnston.
And although Smithfield-Selma (5-16, 0-10) found the sledding tough in a difficult Two Rivers Conference, head coach Chase Crocker knew he could always rely on the effort of his team, spearheaded by a nucleus of six seniors.
“From Day One they battled, and they put everything on the line every time they played,” Crocker said. “Even though they didn’t win as many as they wanted to, we’ve learned a lot of life lessons through this game.”
Seniors Rachel Moore (five kills) and Taylor Hamilton (three kills) led the Spartans’ attack with fellow senior setter Holly Rabil totaling 11 assists.
Kaitlynn Dacey, Heather Rabil and Kaitlyn Rabil also played their last home game as part of a senior class that has developed a reputation of being a tough team to out work.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” said four-year varsity player Moore of her time on the team. “We all just really had a passion for the sport and loved playing volleyball, and I think that’s what drove us.”