If a 3-1 victory to advance to the semifinals of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A volleyball playoffs can be described as “not our best match” as coach Karl Redelfs put it, then No. 1 seed Green Hope is in good shape.
The Falcons defeated No. 7 seed Person on Tuesday in four sets (20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-14), overcoming a slow start as they earned a chance to travel to fellow No. 1 seed D.H. Conley on Thursday with a spot in this weekend’s title game on the line.
“I’m very pleased,” Redelfs said of Green Hope (26-1) reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2011. “We knew we had the capability and the personnel, we just knew we had to fight and work hard.”
Getting past a Person squad that had won its previous two matches in straight sets wasn’t easy, however. The Rockets (22-3) came out on fire, winning the first set thanks to good serving, and a well-balanced attack.
Person looked poised to gain even more control of the match when it held a 7-3 advantage in the second game, but that’s when Green Hope came alive.
Spearheaded by strong performances from outside hitters Kayla Dowler, Amy Zhang and Erin Boone, the Falcons came back to tie the match at one game apiece, and never looked back. Together, the trio combined for 37 kills, with Dowler leading the way with 15 herself.
“The outsides did a fantastic job,” Redelfs said. “Again, our outsides are terrific at serve receiving. That’s what we need them to do.”
According to Dowler –- who moved to North Carolina from Wisconsin this summer along with younger sister and teammate Sydney – Green Hope never lost confidence despite its less than stellar beginning, and things became easier as the match progressed.
“Every time we score a point it gives us momentum, and to actually have a student section tonight was amazing,” said Dowler, who also recorded 16 digs. “We gained the momentum and energy.”
As Green Hope gained confidence, the Rockets became more fatigued.
While Person coach Amanda Ramirez couldn’t have asked for a better start from her group, she believes they struggled to duplicate the type of effort put forward in the opening game.
“I was extremely pleased to come in playing tough the entire time,” Ramirez said. “But I also think we put it all out there in game one, and didn’t really reserve any for game two.”
Down two games to one, Person got help from Campbell commit Courtney Jackson and Avery Bowman, and started off the fourth set well, leading 8-5. But Green Hope’s depth and fast-paced offense eventually wore down the visitors.
In particular, Zhang came on strong for the Falcons as the night went on.
“She was easily our most efficient passer for the night,” Redelfs said. “She’s one of those quiet killers.”
With a quick turnaround ahead, Green Hope has just one day to prepare before facing an undefeated Conley squad that defeated No. 3 seed Broughton in five sets in its most recent contest.
“Whoever shows up, and wants it more, that’s who’s going to win,” Redelfs said.