The Pam Pack comes up with a crucial road win to keep postseason hopes alive

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2018

VANCEBORO — With the regular season coming to a close and the race for playoff spots coming down to the wire, the Washington volleyball team came up with a vital road victory over West Craven on Tuesday, winning by a score of 26-24, 25-22, 21-25, 25-13, to keep the Pam Pack’s postseason hopes alive and knock the Eagles from their perch as the No. 2 team in the conference.

Washington (10-9, 4-6 2A Eastern Carolina Conference) entered this week needing to win all four of its games in order to potentially qualify for the state playoffs, and the Pam Pack is halfway there after also defeating Kinston (0-15, 0-11 2A ECC) in four sets on Monday.

Washington head coach Mallory Lee said she found out right before Tuesday’s match that West Craven (8-5, 6-3 2A ECC) lost to North Lenoir (15-4, 8-3 2A ECC) on Monday, and sharing that information with her players encouraged them.

“I think on the bus they (the Pam Pack) were thinking there was no way, but when they heard that they’ve (the Eagles) actually been beat, for some reason it sparked something in them,” Lee Said. “And our goal was just to remain positive the entire game, just play good volleyball and it worked.”

Other than the final set, the match was tightly contested throughout, with neither team able to build a lead larger than six points. The teams traded volleys back and forth with no lull in the action.

Three players who rose to the occasion for Washington were Sydney Keech, Leah Spencer and Elisa Wilkins, who all affected the game in different ways. With her movement, Keech provided defensive coverage on the court, digging balls out and keeping plays alive. Spencer was a force at the net with her power hitting, producing kill after kill, even with West Craven players at the net attempting to block her. As Washington’s setter, Wilkins kept the Eagles guessing all game, setting up the Pam Pack’s hitters all over the court.

Lee, who described West Craven as “a great team” that’s “well coached,” said the win was important for the conference standings, but even more so for “the culture of the volleyball program.”

“It was big, not only just for the win, but I think it was big for the group mentality, because (assistant coach) Brad (Horton) and I have kind of gotten to a place where we didn’t want to get to, having to, you know, maybe just accept things about our team that we didn’t think were true,” Lee said. “But, then last night (Tuesday) turns that around. I mean this is why I’m hard on them and this is why my expectation is so high, is because I know they can hang and beat teams that appear to be good, but truly I think we have more talent than anyone we’ve met this year.”

Lee said two changes Washington made played large roles in the victory. One of the adjustments was a switch of formation and the other was substituting less, which began in the fourth set, which was also the set the Pam Pack won by the largest margin.

“We’re running a new serve receive formation, which gives us a lot more coverage. We’re just kind of rearranging where people are on the court to force the other team to serve to a person, rather than a huge, gaping hole in the middle of the court,” Lee said. “And we’re continuing to sub less. Flow, momentum and chemistry are huge parts of volleyball, and so when you’re subbing every two to three points, it can knock some of that off. So, we’re letting the six people on the court stay for longer periods of time in hopes that they can continue the momentum or develop some sort of flow and chemistry to break the other team’s momentum.”