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The Wilson Preparatory Academy volleyball team’s 3-1 loss to Gaston KIPP Pride on Tuesday afternoon did not come from a lack of effort.
With a loud and excitable student section reacting to every point, the Lady Tigers, continuing their first season in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 1-A ranks, battled all the way through. But in the end, the home team fell victim to a lack of experience that separated the two schools in an eventual 25-17, 22-25, 25-17, 25-21 decision that dropped WPA to 1-2 — all three games coming against Tar Roanoke Conference competition.
“We only have two girls that have played volleyball before,” first-year head coach Ashley Banks said after the game.
The other eight players on Wilson Prep’s roster are relatively new to the sport, joining the team after primarily participating in other sports like cheerleading and basketball.
That leaves plenty of room for improvement every match, but can create a challenge against more experienced programs.
The Lady Tiger tyros began to show their inexperience in the first set, when with a 9-5 lead, Wilson Prep gave up 12 points in a row to fall behind 17-9 to KIPP Pride.
The hole was too great to overcome as the Lady Tigers dropped the first set.
In the second set, the Lady Tigers went on their own run, taking the lead over after being down 14-12 to win eight-straight points to command a lead.
That lead gave the team enough cushion to withstand a late rally to tie the score at 1. Trinity Mobley scored two of the final three points that set to help her team even the score.
Banks said after the first set, her team talked about how to respond, something she was pleased to see made a difference the next time it took the floor.
“Even though we lost that first set, we could have gotten down then,” Banks said. “But I charged them and I said, ‘Hey, first game. 0-0. Change your mindset.’”
Even with the home crowd jumping up and down to celebrate with the team after winning each point, Wilson Prep could not hold onto the momentum.
In the third set, an early 6-0 lead, built in part by three aces from Shanaya Lindsay, quickly vanished as KIPP Pride won nine of the next 12 points to tie the game at 9-9.
On the night Lindsay was a big contributor for the Tigers, playing a part in 17 scoring plays. Many of those points came from powerful serves that shot across the net for a number of aces in each set.
The two teams tied twice more in the middle of the set before KIPP Pride went on a 7-0 run to take a steady lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
With one more game between KIPP Pride and victory, the visitors jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the final set. In the timeout, Banks made her team jog a few suicides to loosen up.
Fifteen points later, the Lady Tigers had climbed back into it and tied the game at 10-10, then took a three-point lead.
Wilson Prep came five points from forcing a fifth set before KIPP Pride came storming back to win five-straight points to take the lead.
The tough play carried the visiting team to the victory, as the Pride gave up one more point the rest of the set before clinching the win.
After the match, Banks said she was pleased with the effort from her team, and saw improvements that encourage her moving forward. She said the word the team is focusing on every day this season is ‘growth.’
“It’s all about getting better,” Banks said. “Playing the whole game, the entire time.”