RALEIGH — Broughton started shakily but finished with a steady head and solid play to force five sets and hand host Wakefield its first loss.
Both teams were undefeated in conference play entering Tuesday’s match, which decided the Cap Eight 4A’s top team going into the second half of the season.
“There were a lot of nerves in tonight’s match, and at certain points in the match it really showed,” said Broughton coach Traci Smith. This win is “huge. They believe in themselves, but this just confirms it.”
The young Caps lineup is dominated by sophomores, but the team showed maturity and poise to come out on top of a match in which the final four sets were decided by four points or fewer.
Broughton (11-1-1, 7-0) overcame a slow start, including serving into the net on its first three possessions of the first set, which Wakefield won 25-17.
The Wolverines jumped to a lead in the second, but the Caps swayed momentum in their favor midway through the set, forcing a tie at 12 points. Broughton went on to score six straight points, including five aces by sophomore outside hitter Katja Ehlers, to pull ahead 18-12.
A mixup in Wakefield’s serve rotation halted the match for roughly 10 minutes.
Wakefield junior Julia Forbes already had served two points. When the discussion ended, the score remained 18-15, and Forbes continued her service.
The Wolverines eventually took the lead, but Broughton held on to win the set 25-23.
Wakefield (9-1, 6-1) hadn’t dropped a set in conference play this year.
“We were tested big time,” Wakefield coach Cynthia Terrell said. “Broughton is one of those teams that plays on emotion … and they capitalized on it.”
The Caps jumped to an early lead in the third set, but Wakefield clawed back with the upfront tandem of setter Gabrielle Benda (38 assists) and hitter Maya Muldrow (13 kills) difficult to defend. Wakefield pulled ahead in the match with a 25-23 win.
Broughton would take the final two sets, winning 25-21 in the fourth to force a deciding game.
The Caps won the fifth set 15-11 before erupting into screams and hugs.
Ehlers was a force, finishing with 20 kills, 19 digs and six aces. Broughton sophomore captain Kati Smith also was key with 24 assists, 19 digs and nine kills.
“I was expecting exactly what we saw (from Wakefield), a really strong offense, but a team that I felt like we could find a few holes and find a few weaknesses, and we worked hard to do that and our kids zeroed in on it,” Broughton coach Traci Smith said. “The biggest factor was our defense.”
Broughton libero Genna Simpkins was everywhere, digging powerful hits and keeping the volley going on several occasions. She finished with 45 digs.
Wakefield, playing without injured senior hitter and Kentucky recruit Darian Mack, knew Broughton would be its toughest opponent to date.
“We knew that they were a scrappy team and we knew that they really had nothing to lose,” Terrell said. “We had a key injury tonight, which probably would have made a major difference in our game, but we can’t just fault one key element not being there. Broughton came in here and they knew what they had to do to get the job done. We just failed to execute on our end. … This loss is not going to define us. If anything it’ll make us stronger.”
With first place in the conference, Broughton becomes the team to beat.
“I think we have a target on our forehead, and we’re going to have to work really hard to defend what we’ve done in the first half,” Traci Smith said.