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VOLLEYBALL: Conley dominates South Central

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D.H. Conley's Madison Rupp, left, and Elana Fuller go up for a block during Tuesday's match against South Central on Oct. 17, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

D.H. Conley volleyball coach Jennifer Gillikin saw her team’s loss to South Central last week as a bit of a wake-up call.

Based on Conley’s performance Tuesday night, it looks like it might have awoken a sleeping giant.

Matched up against the Falcons for the second time in less than a week, the Vikings overwhelmed SC and dominated in a straight-set (25-16, 25-9, 25-17) victory in the Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference tournament semifinals, clinching a spot in the final against J.H. Rose.

Top-seeded Conley (19-2) will host that matchup tonight at 6.

South Central (15-7) tripped up the Vikings in both teams’ regular-season finale last Thursday, grabbing a 3-1 win that was its first in the series since 2011. Tuesday night’s matchup, however, had little drama as DHC overpowered the Falcons behind a combination of powerful hitting and pinpoint ball placement.

“I think our loss last Thursday helped us to gain our focus back,” Gillikin said. “Never do you want to get a loss, but it did help us realize that we have to continue to work, and that’s why we’re No. 1 in the conference, because we’ve worked hard and stayed focused.”

The Vikings looked plenty focused in the tournament semis. The first set started out as a nip-and-tuck affair, with four lead changes and nine ties taking place before either team got to 12 points. Once Conley did, it put the throttle down, outscoring South Central 13-6 to close out the set and put the Falcons on their heels.

DHC dominated at the net in a lopsided win in the second, then built a big lead and weathered a late SC rally in the third.

“I think today, we came in with a lot of enthusiasm and on a mission,” Gillikin said. “Our goal was to just go after them point for point, and I think we did a good job of hitting seams, and our blockers got their hands up there and were able to stop some of their great hitting from their side.”

South Central showed a spark in Game 3, rallying from a late 12-point hole to pull within five. The Falcons entered off a victory Monday night over C.B. Aycock and will be in the postseason, but coach Kayla Ruffin said her team didn’t seem to show up against a team it beat five nights prior.

“I honestly just think we didn’t show up today,” she said. “We weren’t thinking whatsoever. It’s surprising because we didn’t play to our potential. That’s the most disappointing thing.”

Alannah Thomas had 15 kills and Macy Smith had 12 for Conley. Mary Horton added 24 assists.

J.H. Rose 3, New Bern 0

Second-seed Rose swept past No. 3 seed New Bern (25-9, 26-24, 25-11) to claim its spot in the tournament’s title match.

JHR (20-4) won its fourth straight and reached 20 wins for the third time in the last four seasons. Conley swept JHR in the regular season.

North Pitt 3, Beddingfield 0

North Pitt clinched a spot in the Eastern Plains 2-A Conference tournament title match with a 25-17, 25-19, 25-11 win over Beddingfield in the semifinals.

Casandra Watson and Alyssa Kerns had 14 and 12 kills, respectively, for the Panthers (16-8), who won their fifth straight. North Pitt will host North Johnston, the team with which it shared the regular season title, in the tournament final tonight at 6.

North Johnston 3, Farmville Central 0

North Johnston ended Farmville Central’s season in straight sets (25-21, 25-16, 25-17) in the EPC tournament’s first semifinal.

Lauryn Pitt and Imani Woodson had six kills apiece to lead FC (7-11) offensively. Kate Lancaster had 11 digs.

Ayden-Grifton 3, Greene Central 0

Ayden-Grifton picked up a road win to claim the Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference championship outright, sweeping Greene Central 25-9, 25-16, 25-9.

The conference title is the first since 1976 for A-G (18-2), which had clinched at least a share last week but needed to beat the Rams to win it outright. Zion Hardy (12 kills), Emily Dykes (11 kills) and Lexi Bryant (10 kills) were the offensive leaders for the Chargers, who also got 30 assists from Jordan Cannon and 15 digs by Haley Davis.

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

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