CENTRAL – The Central High volleyball team has been on a quest for consistency, and for one evening, at least, the Wildcats found what they were looking for against District 3-I rival Zachary.
The Wildcats pulled away Monday from the Broncos in each of the first two sets, then rallied in the third set to complete a 3-0 sweep by scores of 25-18, 25-16 and 25-14.
Middle hitter Caroline Nunnery was sharp throughout the match and finished with 12 kills and four blocks. Mary Fralick was also a factor with 14 assists, 10 kills and three aces.
“This is the most consistent we’ve played all year,” said Central coach Michele Lebouef, whose team improved to 10-12 overall and 1-2 in district. “With the exception of a couple of points at the beginning of the third set, we controlled the tempo. We were able to consistently pass and consistently get kills off of good passes.”
Zachary (12-13, 1-3) was led by Alayna Flotte with 10 kills, and Monet McDaniels, who had 21 assists and 15 digs.
For Central, the match was its first since last Thursday. The layoff left Nunnery and the Wildcats restless, but ready to play at a high level despite having two starters sit out with injuries.
“We haven’t played in a while and it’s been a long weekend,” Nunnery said. “I was just ready to get back on the court. We’ve had a couple of losses, but we were ready to play a consistent game.”
Lebouef praised the play of sophomore Destiney Gary, who stepped into the Central starting lineup while senior Nia Kay and junior Kaitlin Dilworth recover from injuries.
“(Gary) has never played varsity,” Lebouef said. “Not only that, she’s never played an offensive role. She’s always been a defensive player, so we’ve thrown her into something that is completely uncomfortable for her and she’s done really well.”
The first set was close in the opening stages.
Following a Central hitting error, the score was tied 9-9 before the Wildcats took the lead for good on Fralick’s kill.
Zachary was as close as 20-17, but Central won five of the next six point with Nunnery’s kill closing out a 25-18 win.
Zachary kept things tight in the second set and trailed 15-14 before Central won the next six points. Nunnery had three kills and a block to spark the final run in a 25-16 win.
The Broncos opened the third set on a tear and led 9-1 following a hitting error.
After a timeout, Central came back with its own surge to tie the score 9-9. Abby Fralick’s two kills and a pair of rotation errors by Zachary helped keep the Central run going.
“I think our first four rotations ended on a service error on our side, which is the inconsistency we talk about,” Lebouef said. “I called a timeout at that point and we regrouped. I said, ‘Hey, let’s go back to the basics. Let’s take care of the things we can control and no more service errors.”
Zachary took a 10-9 lead, but Central won 11 of the next 12 points to effectively put the set out of reach. Nunnery scored the final two points of the 25-14 win with a block and a kill.
Broncos coach Cheri Perry said her team’s mental approach wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I believe a lot of this is a mental thing,” Perry said. “I told the girls, ‘The worst enemy is between your ears.’ You look at the score, but who cares? The point is done, and you can’t get it back. We have to get to the point where we don’t focus on the negative, only the positive.”