PEMBROKE — For two hours and 15 minutes Tuesday night, the tension slowly built between the Lumberton and Purnell Swett volleyball teams. Finally, after a five-set marathon, it erupted — with cheers and screams from the maroon-clad side of the gym after the Pirates earned the thrilling victory.
Lumberton beat Purnell Swett 3-2, with a back-and-forth fifth set serving as a microcosm for what the entire match had been.
“Happy at one point, mad Purnell is beating us. Back-and-forth with our rivals,” Lumberton outside hitter Alona Hanna said. “Everybody knows Purnell and Lumberton always go at it, and they fight it out to the end. It was back and forth, but we came out on top for everything.”
After winning the first and third sets, Lumberton (7-5, 2-4 United-8 Conference) jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the fifth; Purnell Swett (6-9, 2-5 United-8) took the lead after consecutive aces by Georgia Locklear, and extended that lead to 12-9, completing a 10-2 run.
“(Georgia Locklear) has a really competitive serve, when it’s in play,” Purnell Swett coach Corey Deese said. “They were feeling it. It’s Lumberton, it’s their biggest game of the year, it always is, and you’ve got to fight, and you keep fighting to the end. We didn’t get the outcome we wanted, but they fought.”
“We motivated them as much as we could,” Lumberton coach Kali Carter said. “We called timeout, we told them, hey, you’re playing down to their level, they are a good team but we know we can play at at a higher level than them. I was like, just put out what you’ve been putting in in practice, produce the effort you’ve been putting in.”
Lumberton came back to tie the set at 13-13, then took the lead for good on a kill by Hanna.
“Whenever I get front row, all I think is tip; that hard tip, they never expect it,” said Hanna, who totaled 18 kills and 27 digs. “We were down by one, Georgia was killing us with her serves, she has an amazing serve, and that tip always gets them every time. I kept doing it back to back and they never picked up on it. Whatever works, you just keep working with it.”
The Pirates clinched the match one point later on a Rams hitting error, winning the final set 15-13.
“They kept fighting, they just would make simple little mistakes and they’d get back down,” Purnell Swett coach Corey Deese said. “Then they’d fight, and they’d get back down. I’m sure they’re all going home with headaches because they were screaming and hollering for two straight hours.”
Lumberton began the match with a 25-23 win in the first set; the Pirates led 14-8, but the Rams took a 20-18 lead. From a 22-22 tie, Lumberton scored three of the next four points to win the set.
The second set played out similarly, but with a different outcome — Lumberton led 18-11 and 20-16 before an 8-2 run gave Purnell Swett a 24-22 lead, and the Rams won 25-23.
The Pirates dominated the third set 25-13, finishing the set with a 12-3 stretch to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
“We thought we were going to cruise, we got cocky,” Hanna said. “They caught up on us; they saw we were lacking and took advantage of it, and we had to turn it back up a notch — and we did.”
Purnell Swett stayed alive with a fourth-set win; the Rams led 10-4 but trailed 15-13 after an 11-3 Pirates run. The Rams responded with a 10-2 run to lead 23-17 and finished out the set with a 25-21 win.
Lumberton played 10 sets in about 26 hours after a near-identical match on Monday, winning in five sets against Seventy-First. Leira Smith had seven kills and 20 digs; Kaylee Lancaster had five kills, 12 assists and 24 digs; Aydan Bullard had seven aces, 12 assists, two blocks and 19 digs; La’Kayia Hunt had five kills and two blocks; and Charley Whitley had 27 digs for the Pirates.
Katelynn Oxendine had 11 kills, seven digs and three assists for Purnell Swett; Georgia Locklear had six aces, five kills and three assists; and Anyssia Mains had six kills.
Lumberton plays Thursday at Cape Fear and Purnell Swett plays at Gray’s Creek. After Tuesday’s thriller, though, both teams were already looking ahead to their second meeting Oct. 13 at Lumberton.
“We can’t be cocky, we have to take them seriously; even if we win the first one, we have to keep the energy throughout the whole game,” Hanna said. “Every single set matters, every single play, we can’t slack off, and we’ve just got to pick it up and keep it going.”
“I think the teams are pretty even. I look forward to going in there,” Deese said. “It’ll be their senior night so emotions are going to be high, and the fact its a huge rivalry makes the emotions even bigger. We look forward to going back and seeing if there’s a different outcome.”
St. Pauls beats West Bladen
The St. Pauls volleyball team earned a 3-1 win over West Bladen at home Tuesday.
St. Pauls (3-10, 3-2 Southeastern Athletic Conference) won the first set, 25-13, and West Bladen (3-9, 1-4 Southeastern) won the second, 25-22. The Bulldogs won the third set 25-20 and the fourth 25-12.
Katherin Lowery had four aces, eight kills, 14 assists and nine digs for St. Pauls; Brazlyn Kinlaw had two aces, three kills and seven digs; Julianna Bell had six kills and two blocks; Cierra Jones had two aces, nine assists and five digs; Jada McKinnon had four kills and five blocks; Keniah Baldwin had 21 digs; Shayla Gerald had four kills; Jaiden Morrisey had three kills; and Kemya Baldwin had two kills and six digs.
St. Pauls plays Thursday at East Bladen.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.