The N.C. High School Athletic Association East/West volleyball finals are set for Thursday with seven N&O area teams with a shot to reach Saturday’s state championships.
In the East finals, undefeated D.H. Conley (25-0) hosts Green Hope in 4A, Chapel Hill hosts Triton in 3A, undefeated Carrboro (28-0) welcomes Currituck County (19-1) in 2A and Louisburg (26-0) drives to Williamston to face Riverside (25-0). Roxboro Community (25-3), which was split into the West division, will host Community School of Davidson (26-1) in the 1A West final.
Saturday’s championships are at Reynolds Coliseum, with the 2A championship at noon followed by 3A (2:30 p.m.), 4A (5 p.m.) and 1A (7:30 p.m.). Admission is $9.
Conley stops Broughton: After a deflating fourth set Tuesday night, Conley volleyball coach Jennifer Gillikin reminded her team that it had taken two sets from Broughton. She also reminded the Vikings who had home-court advantage.
The Vikings did the rest on the floor, jumping out to a big lead, then hanging on to beat Broughton 3-2 (25-20, 10-25, 26-24, 18-25, 15-13).
“It was our gym, our house,” she said “We were going to protect our court, control the set and that’s what our kids did.”
Broughton (21-2) was down 14-10 but closed the gap to 14-13 before Conley clinched. Kalee Vanderhorst, who is heading to East Tennessee State, finished with 24 kills and 22 digs. The senior spent two years at Conley before moving to Raleigh prior to her junior season.
Claire Sawyer, Broughton’s leading setter, missed the match with an ankle injury. Holli Smith stepped in with 51 assists. Grace Youngblood added 11 kills, five digs and two aces. Nan Parrish had nine kills.
Conley’s Alannah Thomas had 24 kills to pace Conley, and Caitlyn Smirne had 24 assists and six kills. Rachel Bewick had 12 digs.
Green Hope moves by Person: If a 3-1 victory to advance to the semifinals can be described as “not our best match,” as coach Karl Redelfs put it, then Green Hope is in good shape. The Falcons defeated No. 7 seed Person (20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-14), overcoming a slow start.
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. Together, the trio combined for 37 kills, with Dowler leading the way with 15.
While Person (22-3) 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.”
Chapel Hill takes out 1-seed: Chapel Hill knocked off West Carteret (22-3) on the road in a 3-2 thriller (24-26, 23-25, 25-22, 25-11, 15-6). Shea Golden had 25 kills and five aces and Kaya Merkler had nine kills
Triton stuns undefeated team: Gray’s Creek (24-1) hadn’t lost all season, but Triton won 3-2 to move to the Hawks’ first regional final since 2007. Triton has won 13 straight.
Carrboro rallies against Farmville Central: The Farmville Central took a surprising 25-22 first-set victory before the hometown team answered with three dominating sets to win 3-1 (22-25, 25-10, 25-4, 25-11). Carrboro is in the Final Four for the third straight year, but they are still looking for their first trip to a state final. The last two years Carrboro lost to South Granville in the East Regional championship.
“Our goal all year has been to get to the state final and then the pressure is off us,” Carrboro coach Steve Scanga said. “We made that our goal to get to the state final and just play volleyball. I’m not telling them to win the state title. Let’s get to the final and relax and play our game. We can make adjustments. We can move blocks and sets around. We can play different defenses.”
Destiny Cox led Carrboro with 15 kills and senior setter Grace Maggiore adding 23 assists with five aces.
Farmville Central ended the year 20-5 overall with two of those losses coming to undefeated teams (Carrboro and Williamston’s Riverside).
Franklinton’s best run ends: Franklinton’s volleyball team did what it’s been doing for much of the season on Tuesday in the fourth round: 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.
“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,” said Franklinton coach Crystal Barnes. “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 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.
The Red Rams finished the season with a 17-7 mark and graduate only three seniors, two of whom played in Tuesday’s match (Summer Jacobs and Lizzy Tuton). Senior setter Kimmee Vernelson was out of the lineup, recovering from a concussion.
Louisburg still unbeaten: The Warriors swept Pamlico County on Tuesday and have dropped only seven sets this year. Riverside (the other Riverside, not the 4A school in Durham) will host Thursday on a tiebraker for best MaxPreps ranking between two teams with the same winning percentage.
Roxboro wins 22nd straight: The Bulldogs have won 22 games after Tuesday’s sweep of Hayesville.