WHEELING - It was survive and advance time in the West Virginia Class A volleyball sectional Monday as Wheeling Central and Cameron battled for the right to move into tonight's second round.
And for Coach Missy Gossett's Maroon Knights it was a matter of her veteran team taking it to a very young Dragons squad to stay alive.
After trailing early in the first game, Wheeling Central was behind only one time the remaining two as seniors Nicole Francis, Marissa McFadden and Sarah Henry helped lead the way in a 25-16, 25-16, 25-13 victory against Cameron at the Knights' East Wheeling gym.
The win improves Central to 8-17 on the season and sets them up for a date with top-seeded Magnolia this evening at 6:30 p.m. back on the home court. Prior to that matchup, Weirton Madonna and Bishop Donahue will get things started with a 5 p.m. encounter.
"It's good to keep playing, and I am very happy for our seniors to get to move on, but we are going to have to be much more aggressive and do a better job serving if we are going to go any further," Gossett said.
In the opener, things started out good for the Dragons, who have a roster consisting of all sophomores with the exception of just one senior, as they jumped to a quick 2-0 lead and moved it to a 4-1 margin early on. After a brief 5-4 Maroon Knights upper hand, Cameron again found itself in front by a 9-6 margin.
That is when the hosts made their move, jumping in front by a 10-9 count. But while the Wheeling Central never trailed again, the Marshall County squad made it interesting for a little while. The visitors were still within two, 17-15, late, however, the Knights closed on an 8-1 run with McFadden chalking up the final three points in service.
Gossett's team jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second game, only to have the Dragons bounce back and take a 4-3 advantage, their final of the game and the match. Cameron managed to stay close for a while, still down only 13-9, before the Knights again began pulling way before making it a 2-0 lead with a second consecutive 25-16 victory.
With junior Delaney Denniston serving to being the third game, Wheeling Central blasted out to a 6-0 lead and never looked back. After finding itself down 7-1, the Dragons never got closer than seven points down the rest of the way as the Knights put their guests away.
"I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that they are a very young team and our experience and leadership showed through a little more," Gossett added. "It seems like we really made plays when we needed to. We have had a lot of injuries late in the season, including losing a couple of starters in our last match, but I guess everyone has those this time of year.
"We will just look to come out and play the best we can (Tuesday), and like I said, if we can play more aggressive and do a better job of serving we may just hang around."