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VOLLEYBALL: Conley survives, reaches regional finals

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D.H. Conley celebrates after scoring against Broughton on Nov. 1, 2016. (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Every time the D.H. Conley volleyball team landed a haymaker in Tuesday night’s fourth-round state playoff match against Broughton, the visiting Capitals answered by throwing one right back.

After what turned into a back-and-forth, five-set thriller, the Vikings were the last ones standing.

Top-seeded Conley ran out to a big lead in the fifth set, then staved off a furious rally by No. 2 seed Broughton to close out a 3-2 (25-20, 10-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-13) victory and advance to the 4-A East Regional finals.

The Vikings (25-0) will host No. 1 Green Hope on Thursday night, with the winner earning a spot in Saturday’s state championship match at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum.

Broughton (21-2) responded each time DHC gained the upper hand in the match, the largest such instance coming when the Vikings ran out to a 9-1 lead in the winner-take-all fifth set. The Caps whittled that lead down to three points, then after Conley took a 14-10 lead, rallied with three straight points to threaten to extend the final set.

Just as they have all season, the Vikings maintained their composure and closed out the match on a tip by Alannah Thomas.

“Our team just plays with a lot of heart and they have been so focused all season long,” DHC coach Jennifer Gillikin said. “Every one of them have the same goal, so I wasn’t worried at all about them folding. I knew they were going to give me everything they had. We knew it was a battle and Broughton was a tough team. We just went out there and battled like Vikings.”

Conley and Broughton (21-2) alternated set victories with the Vikings drawing first blood in the first, then moving to within sight of victory by winning the third. Yet, every time DHC established control, the Caps dug in and swung momentum right back.

Broughton’s attack was spearheaded by the hitting of senior Kalee Vanderhorst, a former Conley player who transferred to Broughton last year. Vanderhorst pounded the Vikings, finishing with 24 kills and 22 digs.

DHC never flinched in the face of Vanderhorst’s overpowering hits. Senior Emily Kirby led the Vikings’ defense at the net, registering eight blocks and going toe-to-toe with Vanderhorst for much of the night.

“I knew going in that she was a great hitter and I just had to push hard and go up there big,” Kirby said. “I mean, it’s intimidating. She’s really getting up there and hitting it hard, but once you get a touch on it, it feels great.”

Conley packed its own potent one-two punch in the hitting game, getting 24 kills from Thomas and 12 from Samantha Dunn. Thomas turned up the heat in the fifth, accounting for three of the Vikings’ first four points in the fifth set, then dropping the winner over the Caps’ line of defenders.

“I saw the hole was open on the other side, so instead of hitting into the block again and getting blocked straight down, I just hit it to that spot and hoped it worked,” Thomas said.

Caitlyn Smirne had 24 assists and six kills and Rachel Bewick added 12 digs for DHC.

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

Carrboro 3, Farmville Central 1

Farmville Central, the No. 2 seed in the 2-A East bracket, was eliminated by top-seeded Carrboro on Wednesday night in the 2-A East Regional semifinals.

The Jaguars won the first set 25-22, but Carrboro rolled to three straight wins after that by scores of 25-10, 25-4 and 25-11.

Farmville Central finished the year 20-5.

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