ERWIN — A slow start nearly cost the Corinth Holders volleyball team a spot in the Two Rivers 3A Conference tournament championship match.
However, another less than desirable start one night later in the finals against battle-tested Triton could not be overcome as the Pirates fell to the Hawks 3-0 (25-11, 25-23, 25-21).
A night after coming from behind 2-0 to oust Cleveland in five sets, Corinth Holders (13-6) was outmatched in the opening set as Triton’s Barbara Godwin and Cassidy Hayes took control at the net to cruise to the 25-11 set victory.
“We need to come out better than 25-11,” said Corinth Holders coach Charles Riley. “If we come out better and put a little bit of pressure on them, that second game might go a little bit differently.”
If the first game helped to set a tone in favor of Triton (20-3), the second game may have ultimately been the Pirates’ undoing.
It was a set that Corinth Holders controlled thanks to an improved transition game that featured the passing of junior Samantha Payne. Lindsay Alford, Cole Narron and Cyarra Pierson all benefited as the trio began taking turns finding dents in Triton’s armor.
But despite a new-found fluidity to its game and the fact that the Pirates led for much of the set, Carrington Royals and the rest of the Hawks responded with a 13-6 run to close the set and take the insurmountable 2-0 lead.
The key point came with Corinth Holders up 23-20 and poised to put a stranglehold on the set before a diving defensive stab by Royals kept the point alive which Erica Parker eventually finished with a kill.
“They played well defensively,” Riley said of the Hawks. “There were some balls we put down and their libero smacked them up and to me, that was the difference in game two.”
A Corinth Holders’ hitting error gave Triton its first lead in the set since they led 2-1 and Godwin put the set away one point later with one of her team high 12 kills.
The third set was also competitive with Triton using another late run, this time winning six of the set’s final nine points, to claim its twelfth straight conference tournament championship to go along with 13 consecutive regular season championships.
“I think we did well in the second and third games but we should have played better in the first game,” said Narron. “They’re good but we can beat them; they are beatable.
“They’re the team to beat for every school in this conference.”
Narron led the Pirates with 10 kills while Alford had five kills. Payne led the Pirates with 13 assists
Hayes added eight kills for the Hawks and Ashley Gaines helped run the show with 27 assists.
Corinth Holders now turns its attention outside the conference as the Pirates, the No. 2 seed out of the Two Rivers 3A Conference, was scheduled to host Orange out of the Big Eight Conference Saturday.
For Riley, the formula to make a run in the tournament is simple.
“We have to come out of the gates better,” Riley added. “From that first serve, we have to play hard.”