Broughton didn’t just have to be good in the third round of the state NCHSAA 4A volleyball playoffs.
The Caps needed to be great.
And for most of Thursday night they were just that, holding off a spirited challenge from a powerful Greenville Conley team 25-14, 25-27, 25-21, 26-24 at Holliday Gym.
The result kept the Cap-8 4A champions and No. 1 seed Caps’ record perfect at 19-0. No. 8 seed Conley finished 20-4.
“Conley is always really good,” said first-year Broughton coach Jim Freeman, who won 10 state titles at Cardinal Gibbons. “They play hard and keep the pressure on. We knew it was going to be a tough match and it was.
“They’re certainly one of the better teams we’ve played. We still need to stay on task a little better. But we did what we needed to do to win in the last set.”
The Caps looked ready to rout the visitors after rolling by 11 points in the first set, but the Vikings roared back for nail-biters in the final three sets.
“Broughton is just very well coached,” said Conley coach Jennifer Gillikin, whose teams won a state title in 2007 and were in the semifinals last year. “We kind of started out on the nervous side, but we picked up our intensity. I’m proud of the way we fought tonight. The girls have been doing that all season.”
Junior captain Katja Ehlers had 19 kills and four aces for Broughton.
“We knew they had great hitters,” Ehlers said. “We had to pick up our defense. When we had trouble, we did a good job calming ourselves down.
“They’re a great team and we had to pick up our game and go from there.”
Senior Adria Johnson had 10 kills and Tiana Butler nine for the Capitals. Holli Smith had 19 assists and 10 digs for Broughton, and Ryan Haar finished with 23 assists and Genna Simpkins 10 kills.
“Tonight was hard,” said 6-foot-3 outside hitter Johnson, who will play at Pepperdine next season. “We just had to focus on ourselves and not worry so much about the other side.
“I was proud of the way we played. Conley played great defense and really wanted to win – and (Kalee Vanderhorst) is just a great hitter.”
Broughton led 24-22 in the second set before a run of four straight service points from Caitlyn Smirne turned the momentum for Conley.
The Caps led by as many as eight points during the third set before holding on for the four-point victory.
Then in the fourth, Conley took a 7-0 lead with Chelsea Bailey serving before the Caps trimmed it to 8-7 on Smith’s serve and eventually turned the set around.
“Our bench really kept us up,” Butler said. “And we tried to trust each other through the hard times. Our team is really together, and I think that’s the reason we keep winning.”