The Centerville High School volleyball team knew it let a match slip away Tuesday night when Winchester knocked the Bulldogs off in five sets.
The Bulldogs also knew, however, that taking a talented Falcon team to five sets was a result of their hard work all season.
And, to remain in the Tri-Eastern Conference hunt, they know they can’t afford another TEC loss.
Centerville kept all of those things in mind Thursday night and made the key plays in sweeping TEC and Wayne County foe Northeastern 3-0.
The Bulldogs, who were TEC champion in 2011, are now 2-1 in the TEC after a 25-21, 25-13, 25-16 win over the Knights.
“We talked about how Winchester had some really strong players and it was just good experience for us,” said Centerville’s Jordan VanWinkle, one of six seniors. ” … It’s a good experience for the seniors to know that we’re going to be challenged enough to go five games with Winchester, and they’re a really good team.”
Neither team was overpowering Thursday, but both were scrappy, making for long rallies and close sets.
The Bulldogs took their first lead at 8-7 in the first set, but the Knights tied the game 14-all and got within a point three more times, before the Bulldogs held on for the win.
A nine-point streak keyed a lopsided Game 2, when Centerville led by as many as 11 points.
“We were kind of slow at the beginning,” VanWinkle said, “but I think then we kind of turned our heads on and we realized we were better than that and not to drop down to anybody’s level, that we have our own level that we can play at.”
A big momentum swing came in the third game, however.
With the score at 10-9 in the third set, Northeastern looked to have tied it at 10, but the officials told Northeastern coach Jerry Middleton they never saw where the ball hit, and Centerville served again.
The Bulldogs won 10 of the next 11 to take control.
“It always feels good to have a win, especially when it’s a conference win. And coming off a loss in conference, I knew mentally we needed to have this game go well for us,” first-year Bulldogs coach Victoria Bevins said.
VanWinkle had 12 kills and three aces for the Bulldogs, while Ally Cox had 29 assists, Brittany Jones led the team with 31 digs and Kaylin Smith had three blocks and five kills.
For the Knights, Emily Loden had nine blocks and four kills, Heaven Stegall had a team-high five kills, while Michaela Barker had 21 digs and two aces, Hannah Young had 15 assists and Ashley McDaniel had eight digs.
“We knew we had to come in and be scrappy and so forth and we had to serve well. We really didn’t serve the ball well tonight. We passed the ball OK, we blocked well, but things come down to, things happen and people change momentum for you,” Middleton said. “Instead of 10-10 you’re down 10-9, then they rattle off five straight points. That changed the completion of the whole set. Stuff like that is stuff that’s happened to us all year. It’s irritating.”