For Millbrook, it was a necessary win to cap the conference season, and the Wildcats did it in convincing fashion, topping Wakefield 3-0 Monday in the Cap Eight finale.
“We were worried and concerned about making playoffs,” Millbrook coach Julee Dickens said. “We didn’t know for sure what was going to happen with all that because we’ve lost some key games and split with some people, so I felt that if we could play well tonight and win that this would seal the fact that we’ll make the state playoffs.”
The win was key for the Wildcats’ playoff prospects, and paid off with a No. 31 seed out of 32 possible East region slots, but it was also a big accomplishment on a more local scale.
Dickens pointed out that Millbrook (8-9, 7-7 Cap Eight) had only beat Wakefield, the 2013 NCHSAA 4A champion, twice in her five-year tenure coaching the Wildcats. Wakefield had topped Millbrook, 3-2, in the teams’ previous meeting, but taking two sets in that match gave the Wildcats confidence leading into Monday’s game.
“I knew and felt that if those girls believed that they could be victorious and remembered how well they could play and if everybody was on, I knew that we could beat them tonight,” Dickens said. “It’s just a matter of everybody being on, and that’s key when you play Leesville or Wakefield or Broughton. You’ve got to be on, and that happened.”
Millbrook, Wakefield, Leesville Road and Broughton were joined by fellow Cap Eight teams Wake Forest and Leesville Road in earning playoffs bids.
Broughton (16-0, 14-0), still undefeated, is the No. 1 seed in the East for the state tournament that began Saturday.
Wakefield (13-6, 9-5) earned a No. 11 seed, but having lost the last two matches of the regular season, head coach Cynthia Terrell was trying to think of ways to get this year’s team ready for the playoffs.
Wakefield lost a core group of seniors, including three Division I players, that led the team to last year’s state title, the first in the school’s history. The Wolverines are led this year by seniors Amaya Rousseau and Julia Forbes, who also played big roles in last season’s success.
“We’re going to have to do some serious regrouping and get back on how I know we can play,” Terrell said. “We don’t have a lot of postseason experience per se, and we’re just going to have to find a way to get back into Wakefield style of play, which means we really may have to restructure the entire team to best fit how I know we’re capable of playing.”
For Millbrook, youth has been a hurdle this season, as the Wildcats have just two seniors -- Annie Delmedico and Aquia Jones.
“It’s a struggle to be mentally tough when literally half of your team are freshmen and sophomores, so I have great hope for the future, but to try to pull this off and to be mentally tough and stay with it to the end, it’s tough with freshmen and sophomores on the team, and they know that,” Dickens said.
Jones led the Wildcats attack Monday with 12 kills. Delmedico had 27 sets and 19 digs.
“(Jones’) hitting is undeniable,” Dickens said. “She’s just a powerful hitter, so when she’s on, she’s great. And (Delmedico) is just completely the stablizing force of our team. She’s our captain. She is the reason that we have won games that we shouldn’t have won, and and not because maybe of her great athleticism -- because he is a good athlete -- but more than that is her mental stability. She is a true leaders and she basically runs that team, and they listen to her, so you can’t say enough about that when momentum swings go consistently.”
Forbes led Wakefield with nine kills and two aces. Fellow Wolverines seniors Rousseau and Ashley Assa added two blocks and 27 digs, respectively.