Both Heritage and Millbrook find themselves with points to prove on the volleyball court this season. On one hand, Heritage is trying show that its past two playoff appearances were no fluke. Meanwhile, coach Julee Dickens’ Millbrook program is fighting to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014 after narrowly missing out on last year’s playoffs.
Facing each other on Thursday as conference opponents for one of the final times before next year’s conference realignment, Millbrook won its Cap-8 opener by beating the Huskies 3-1 (25-13, 25-21, 20-25, 25-17).
Despite going 1-3 in nonconference play, Millbrook (2-3, 1-0) was capable of turning in a performance like the one it did against Heritage (3-3, 0-1), Dickens thought. As it turns out, she was right.
Not disheartened by her team’s lack of wins against tough non-conference opponents like Apex and Fuquay-Varina, Dickens was pleased with she saw from the Wildcats.
“I’m excited that we took home our first conference victory this season,” Dickens said. “We have a very young team, so it’s concerning about how strong we’ll be in this conference.”
Even with their youth, the Wildcats showed signs of their potential with strong outside hitting and good team quickness, illustrating why they could possibly return to the postseason for the first time in two seasons.
Led by junior Taylor Rebne and freshman Skyler Rogerson, the Wildcats have a bevy of outside hitters, many of whom are versatile and can defend well.
“My hitters are also able to play back row,” Dickens said. “That’s unusual for good hitters to play in the back row, as well.”
While the season is still young, Dickens believes her players can certainly improve, particularly on defense and with blocking, which makes her optimistic.
“Realistically, I think we have the potential to get much, much better. I’m excited about the way we started off tonight.”
One year removed from a 15-win season, Heritage, like Millbrook, is a young team. The Huskies have only three seniors and while the overall talent level might be at a good level, they’ve lacked consistency, which was evident on Thursday.
Heritage looked good in “spurts”, as coach Jessica Furlough put it, but lacked the ability to play to its potential from start to finish.
Furlough believes many of the Huskies’ errors are preventable and fixable, which could bode well as the season progresses.
“When we’re struggling, it’s uncharacteristic mistakes,” Furlough said. So, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, or they can’t overcome.”
Still, strong performances from junior outside hitter Ally Harper and senior outside hitter Fatou Sall against Millbrook served as a reminder of what the Huskies are capable of.
“Ally’s been with varsity all three years and Fatou the past year or so. They’re definitely our leaders and kind of hold us all together,” Furlough said.
1st set: Able to get off to a fast start, Millbrook started the opening game on a 13-0 run and took the set with ease.
2nd set: A much closer affair than the opening set, the Wildcats took an all-important two-game lead by winning the second frame as their attack proved to be effective.
3rd set: Eyeing a potential loss straight-set loss, the Huskies delayed their eventual defeat with a five-point win in the third set.
4th set: Not entertaining the idea of a Heritage comeback one bit, Millbrook finished on a high note and used a 5-0 run about midway through the set to build a large lead which it never gave up.
THEY SAID IT
“She brings strength, agility, defense and strong, strong defense to our team. Obviously she’s a junior, so she’s been playing on varsity since she was a freshman.” – Millbrook coach Julee Dickens on junior outside hitter Taylor Rebne.