The moment wasn’t too big for the Vikings.
Having already played big matches this season, the D.H. Conley volleyball team was ready for New Bern as soon as the Bears got off the bus. Conley rolled to a 3-1 victory (25-14, 25-17, 22-25, 25-20) Tuesday night.
It was poised to be one of the biggest 4A volleyball matches of the season with both teams entering with undefeated records and tied atop the Eastern Carolina 4A/3A Conference.
But from the outset, the Vikings were poised.
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The Vikings (13-0, 5-0) aren’t the tallest group but make up for it with strong service game, great defense and only sporadic attacking errors.
“Our hitters were really working on trying to find the holes and they were able to find them. They were making their defense have to move and we were able to take them a little bit out of their offense game a little because of our attacks,” said coach Jennifer Gillikin. “We have a team that works really hard, and every ball they’re going to go after, and you can see it when they play. They’re not going to sit back and let a ball drop; they’re very focused.”
The only other teams to take a set against the Vikings are Eastern Wayne (3-1), J.H. Rose (3-2) and Wilmington’s Hoggard High (3-1).
Conley was led by Caitlyn Smirne (31 assists), Samantha Dunn (13 kills), Alannah Thomas (25 kills, nine digs), Courtney Rupp (17 assists) and libero Rachel Bewick (three aces on seven serves).
“Our defense is one of the major things we work on and our defense keeps us going,” said Thomas, a junior who was celebrating her 16th birthday. “They dig up everything.”
Conley has a Thursday match at South Central before starting the second half of conference play. At stake is a top-eight seed in the NCHSAA playoffs, likely one of the top four if not No. 1 overall.
The Bears (12-1, 4-1) tried to find senior Faith Hanford as their go-to attacker, but the more the Vikings kept it in play, the more New Bern struggled to adjust.
The Bears had only allowed one team to take a set all season – Sanderson in the second of two non conference matches, 3-1.
First set: Conley jumps out to an early 11-4 lead and doesn’t look back to win 25-14. New Bern has trouble on defense. (DHC leads 1-0).
Second set: More of the same for Conley to win 25-17 (DHC leads 2-0).
Third set: Conley rallies late but comes up short to New Bern 25-22 (NBN down 2-1).
Fourth set: A 10-1 start all but ensures the Vikings’ victory en route to a 25-20 win (DHC wins 3-1).