As the only person in school history to both coach and play in a state championship volleyball match, Louisburg coach Erica Wammock fully understands the lofty expectations that come with being a part of the tradition-rich program.
“There is a lot of pressure,’’ Wammock said. “Some of it is self-imposed, but when I played here, you won. It was that simple. You didn’t lose. If you did, it was terrible.’’
Wammock, a member of Louisburg’s 1998 state runner-up squad, returned to the school in the mid-2000s after graduating from East Carolina, and she guided the Warriors to another second-place state finish in 2007.
But the one unfinished goal of Wammock’s career is to add another banner to Louisburg’s state title collection, and the undefeated Warriors took a huge step Saturday toward attaining that objective with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-21) home triumph against Franklin Academy in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A playoffs.
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Louisburg, now 25-0 overall, will host Pamlico County next Tuesday in the state quarterfinals. That was the same round the Warriors reached last year before falling at Roxboro Community.
“This time, we don’t want to lose and be done,” said Louisburg senior middle hitter Summer Phillips, who paced her club with a team-high 11 kills and four blocks. “Our group of six seniors, we want to keep playing.”
Back in 2013, Phillips was part of freshman class that entered Louisburg with plenty of potential – so much so that Wammock put five of her ninth-graders on the varsity.
It was a tough decision for Wammock, because rebuilding volleyball phases aren’t necessarily welcomed at Louisburg. But she figured the long-term investment would eventually pay dividends – an assessment that proved to be correct.
“This senior class is a special group, going back to when they were freshmen,’’ Wammock said. “We had some holes that needed to be filled that year, and they fit in. So what we have now are girls who have gained experience by playing in a lot of big matches. It wasn’t just like they came right up from the junior varsity. They learned by being out there.’’
That fact has been evident this fall as the Warriors have dropped just seven sets the entire season, though two of them came in a tight, campaign-opening victory over Franklin Academy in August that would serve as a precursor to Saturday’s playoff showdown.
“I think it helped us that we had played (Franklin Academy) before,’’ Phillips said. “A lot of times, when you get this far (in the postseason), you don’t really know much about the other team. But we kind of knew what to expect.’’
The Patriots (19-4) stayed close with the Warriors in each set, but were unable to come up with enough clutch points to overtake their veteran-savvy opponent despite seven kills and four blocks from senior Meagan Smith.
“We had a hard time getting passes to our setter so we could run our offense,” said Franklin Academy coach Stephanie Smith, whose squad finished second this season in the North Central Athletic Conference. “When we get the ball to our setter, we can be very productive, but our passes weren’t there (Saturday).”
Louisburg junior Whitney Bolton, another player who has started since she was a freshman, delivered nine kills, five of which came in the opening. Teammate Sarah Foster, a senior, chipped in with four kills and four aces.
While Franklin Academy will be saying goodbye to five seniors, Louisburg’s six upperclassmen will continue their title quest.
The Warriors won state crowns under skipper Freddie Edwards in 1988 and 1989. The 1988 club won 37 contests – a number that is ties the Warriors with the 1985 Jordan team for the most in a single season in state history.