Everyone in North Carolina volleyball circles knows about Sydney Dowler, Green Hope’s Maryland-bound setter extraordinaire. The same goes with East Carolina-bound Priscilla Jones and Iowa State-bound Alexis Englebrecht.
But opponents also have to deal with senior Grace Patrick and junior Annie Elvin.
Patrick recorded 20 kills and Elvin 11 to help the three-time defending state champions win their fourth straight N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East Regional title with a 3-1 win over Broughton on Tuesday night in Green Hope’s gym.
“I think every player on our team is special and plays a role,” said Dowler, who had 65 assists. “Annie has a great deep swing. She killed it on the lines. She figured out it was open and came up with a lot of points at crucial times.
“Grace has quick arm. She came through with some sweet swings. She put the ball down like no other tonight.”
Broughton was the first team to take a game from the Falcons in their four state matches, but the competition was closer than 3-1 suggests. Green Hope was pushed each game en route to a 25-23, 23-25, 25-18, 25-22 victory.
The Falcons advanced to the state final at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Fayetteville State. Green Hope faces West 4A champion Ardey Kell (25-5) of Charlotte.
Dowler wasn’t done mentioning Patrick and Elvin. She credited senior libero Taylor Nomanson, senior defensive specialist Rhea Ramkumar and junior defensive specialist Ashley Cao for digging rocket shots from Broughton’s dynamic Jade Demps. The powerful 6-2 senior bound for Wisconsin finished with 25 kills, including several from the back row.
“She’s the best player in the state and one of the best in the state ever,” Broughton coach Drew Hermanson said. “She showed up against a team that has won so much. She got on a run and they had difficulty stopping her. Wisconsin has a great program, and I expect to be watching her a lot on the Big Ten Network.”
Dowler also singled out the Falcons’ fourth scholarship player, Sophia Kruczko, a 6-2 junior committed early to NCAA Division II Nova Southeastern.
“Sophia did a really good job of opening up our offense,” Dowler said. “She made things easier for our other hitters.”
RECORDS: Broughton (22-4) at Green Hope (26-2)
THREE WHO MATTERED:
(Broughton -- Mesnard, Ainsley) The junior finished with six blocks to go with her points on kills.
(Green Hope -- Jones, Priscilla) The senior finished with 11 kills, including the last two points in the Game 4 win.
(Green Hope – Engelbrecht, Alexis) The senior totaled 11 kills, including a Game 4 kills to trim Broughton’s lead to 20-19 and a block for a 21-21 tie.
--- Broughton, the Cap 7 4A co-champions with Cardinal Gibbons, rallied from the No. 9 seed to reach the regional final. The Caps swept Pine Forest and No. 8 seed Ashley 3-0 in the first two rounds and claimed 3-2 matches in the next two rounds over No. 1 seed South Central and No. 4 seed Cardinal Gibbons.
--- Demps made a name for herself in track and field before emerging as one of the nation’s top volleyball recruits. The summer before her freshman year as a 13-year-old, she earned USA Junior Track and Field All-American honors in the pentathlon (100-meter hurdles, shot put, high jump, long jump and 800 meters). She won the USATF Region 3 title and placed fourth in the nationals. Demps said she plans to compete in track this spring, but for now her college career is focused on volleyball.