Franklinton’s volleyball team did what it’s been doing for much of the season on Tuesday in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 2A volleyball playoffs: battle, and impress with their play.
Unfortunately for the Red Rams, it wasn’t enough against a strong Currituck County squad. The Knights took a 3-1 (25-18, 25-27, 25-13, 25-15) victory.
Currituck County took control of the third and fourth sets with early scoring runs to build big leads against Franklinton.
After the Red Rams grabbed a 27-25 victory in the second set to even the match, Knights sophomore standout Kam Johnson flipped the momentum with a nine-point service run to push Currituck ahead 9-1. The 6-foot-2 hitter had five aces in the string of serves and Franklinton never got closer than four points for the rest of the set.
“There’s nobody else you would want to be on that service line,” Currituck coach Jennifer Hopkins said of Johnson.
Johnson finished with a match-high 15 kills as well.
“We knew that Johnson was — as the kids say, ‘a beast.’ They were very good, using back row attacks and really making us work,” said Franklinton coach Crystal Barnes. “I felt like we did a good job of defending their shots with blocks and digging out a lot of balls. I’m really proud of the girls and the effort they gave.
She continued: “To come to this point — the farthest any Franklinton team has ever been in the playoffs — as a No. 6 seed is an impressive accomplishment for this group.”
And the Red Rams have gone far literally in these playoffs as well.
The nearly four-hour jaunt by bus to Currituck County came after Franklinton had to make trips to South Columbus (three-plus hours) and Dixon (another three-plus hours) last week.
“These girls have given it their all, but they’re tired,” Barnes said. “The travel has taken a toll on them.”
The Red Rams finished the season with a 17-7 mark and graduate only three seniors, two of who played in Tuesday’s match (Summer Jacobs and Lizzy Tuton). Senior setter Kimmee Vernelson was out of the lineup, recovering from a concussion.
The Knights (19-1) move on to meet Carrboro in the eastern regional championship match on Thursday. The state championship is on Saturday.
“We wanted to excel in our serve-receive and be excellent in our coverage tonight,” Hopkins said. “We worked a lot on that, covering the short ball especially. And what we worked on, we executed.”
Six Franklinton players are either sophomores or freshmen, including sophomores Amari Champion who was one of the Red Rams’ main weapons at the net. Freshman setter Denise Burk has also adjusted quickly to an expanded role because of Vernelson’s injury.
“We’ve played a lot of sophomores who have contributed a lot this year,” Barnes said. “We came out and battled against a very hard-hitting team on the road and just came up short. We’re going to miss our seniors. But we’re excited about the future.”