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No. 1 seed Chapel Hill sweeps J.H. Rose in second round action

When Kaya Merkler gets a kill, you can hear it: the 6-foot-3 senior connecting with the ball, the smack as it thuds against the gym floor and the eruption of the Chapel Hill High volleyball bench afterward. Merkler’s powerful swing once even sprained a club teammate’s finger.

“But it was an accident,” Merkler added with a laugh. “I love her.”

The star outside hitter racked up 21 of those kills Tuesday night as top-seeded Chapel Hill swept 17-seed J.H. Rose, 3-0, in the second round of the NCHSAA 3A volleyball tournament. The Tigers, who swept Triton in the first round, will host the winner of Hunt-C.B. Aycock in a third-round match Thursday night.

The win was by no means a cakewalk. As Chapel Hill coach Ross Fields aptly noted, J.H. Rose’s record was more a reflection of its talented conference, which includes two more top seeds in South Central and D.H. Conley.

The Tigers and Rampants fought to a 11-11 tie in the first set before a 14-8 run by Chapel Hill ended things at 25-18. Neither the second nor the third set remained tied that late, but J.H. Rose hung around with some opportune defense until Chapel Hill again pulled away with two more 25-18 wins.

“We’re the No. 1 seed, but we know any team can come in here and beat us just as easy as we can beat them,” senior setter Caroline Wright said. “I’m really proud of my team … we all just really hustled out there the entire night and never gave up.”

RECORDS: Chapel Hill 23-1, J.H. Rose 16-11.

Three who mattered:

Kaya Merkler, Chapel Hill: She had a team-high 61.8 kill percentage and also logged three assists.

Julia Charney, Chapel Hill: The senior had 12 kills of her own on a 54.5 percentage.

Mackenzie DePinto, Chapel Hill: The setter had a team-best 21 assists and added seven digs.

Worth noting:

  • As the No. 1 seed on the east side of the bracket, the Tigers wouldn’t have to play a road game until the state championship match on Nov. 9 in Fayetteville — if they win out.
  • Merkler is a North Carolina commit, and UNC coach Joe Sagula was in the bleachers Tuesday to watch his future player. He was joined by UNC lacrosse coach Joe Breschi, whose daughter, Samantha, had 19 assists and 11 digs.
  • J.H. Rose’s hitters logged a few sneaky points with no-look taps into the middle of the court, when it appeared they were setting up a teammate for a kill.
Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.