CLAYTON — For much of the season-opening volleyball contest of cross-town rivals Clayton and Cleveland Tuesday night, it appeared as though the two evenly matched teams would battle back and forth throughout a long match.
That was until the Comets turned it up a notch.
Clayton came from behind in each of the match’s three sets to earn a 3-0 win over the Rams: 25-15, 25-23 and 25-23.
After coming from behind from just two points down in the opening set to get an early advantage, the Comets erased seven- and nine-point deficits in the second and third sets, respectively, to set the tone for what the Comets expect to be a successful season.
“I told them that I was expecting big things out of them and it showed here tonight,” Clayton coach Marlon Lee said. “We got down early and actually got down every match, but the resiliency was key.”
Two scoring runs spawned from the service games of Jenna Harris and Kaylee Morgan led to a 16-8 Comet run in the first to help grab the early advantage.
But it was in the second and third games where Clayton inflicted the most damage.
With Cleveland’s Marina Roe exerting her presence in the early stages of the second game, the Rams built a 13-6 lead.
But led by an organized defense and the brilliant passing from junior setter Kennedy Paine, the Comets went on an 8-1 run to get back in the set before winning on a Cleveland service error.
The young Rams came out on fire again at the beginning of the third set with Krista Haschke and outside hitter Alexis Ivey leading the way to a 20-11 lead.
But thanks to seven consecutive points during the service game of Ashley Murphy, the Comets stormed back one final time before Megan Homestead’s shot down the line completed the sweep.
“It was hard in that last game,” said Cleveland coach Megan Morris. “We were up by nine points and then we gave them nine points back.”
The Rams lost four seniors from last season’s team and although there is an influx of new talent, Morris expects a little bit of a learning curve to start the year.
“Tonight, I think a lot of them were just nervous,” Morris said. “We’ve got a young group still and they’re still learning and we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“So, we’ve just got to keep plugging along.”
For the Comets, who lost eight seniors from last year’s squad, a new core group of seven experienced seniors look to have the Comets poised to not skip a beat.
“This group of seniors, as freshmen they went 19-0,” said Lee. “So we’ve got high expectations. I’m already enjoying this group.”
Homestead led the Comets with seven kills while Paine recorded 22 assists.
Roe ended the game with six kills and four blocks to lead the Cleveland attack while Haschke and Hope Medlin spearheaded the Rams’ defensive effort.