PEMBROKE — As the Purnell Swett volleyball team got its first crack at Lumberton on Thursday, it was hard to doubt the Rams’ chemistry.
With nearly each ball that Lumberton (9-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) attempted to play, the opposing defense found ways to set up shots for most of the girls in the rotation.
“We’ve had a variety of girls (play well),” said Purnell Swett coach Courtney Hill. “Every day is somebody’s best game. It’s a new person’s game every time we play. It is pretty balanced out. We haven’t had a real solid, set lineup as far as the season’s gone, we’ve got a lot of good talent.”
It just so happened that as the Rams (13-1, 5-1 SEC) swept the Pirates 25-23, 25-17, 25-18, it was the trio if Mikala Lowry, Taylor Locklear and Jamee Bird that led the way with six kills each.
“We have a better vibe this year. We all get along better,” Bird said. “We have certain people who are better at lifting the team up and certain people who are like other coaches, so everybody works together.”
It paid off on a night in which neither team got the offense it hoped to have. Numerous points, especially for Purnell Swett, were the result of kill attempts that overshot the back line or digs that didn’t bounce the right way.
Lumberton coach Jeff McLamb attributed the loss largely to his team’s execution.
Kayla Kerns, the Pirates’ leading scorer had only five kills. The next highest was Mariah Locklear with two. Even setter Allison Kinlaw was affected, finishing with 10 assists, compared to the 25-30 she averages per match regularly.
The opening set started off back and forth. Lumberton jumped ahead 5-2, but a swing by Purnell Swett made it 7-5 for the Rams. The teams played it close until a 6-2 run by Purnell Swett made it 24-21.
The stretch included a kill and block by Taylor Locklear and an ace by Tiffany Clark.
Lumberton responded with kills a kill by Kaye Grant and a block, but it was an off-target shot by Grant that gave Purnell Swett the game at 25-23.
In the final two games, the Rams found their breaks. After a 3-3 tie to start the second game, Swett went on an 8-3 run to make it 12-6.
Lumberton eventually got the lead down to 17-14 on consecutive kills from Kerns, but Swett closed out the set with a 6-1 run to end it 25-17.
The final game was a similar story, with a tie at 9-9, followed by a 9-4 run to make it 18-13. Swett clinched the win by scoring six of the final seven points.
Lumberton entered the week with only one loss this season, but was hurt by similar issues in Tuesday’s loss to Scotland and finished the week 0-2.
The win keeps Purnell Swett in a top position near the midpoint of the SEC schedule. The only loss the Rams have was in five games to Scotland.
“I’m proud of the way they played,” Hill said. “I’m glad they won, but it wasn’t our best win yet. I told the girls that we can’t step backwards, we need to be pushing forwards.”