Pitt County home to volleyball powerhouses
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Monday, September 17, 2018
It’s difficult to win the first 11 games of your season consecutively, and it shows the mark of a true contender for a state title.
Try having not one, but two of those in the same conference. Add another that at 9-3, continually fights for its chance at a conference and state title. Add another one that sits at 10-1 and continues its run of excellence in the sport despite its much smaller size compered to those listed earlier, and one that holds a large portion of its roster from the same area and sits at 10-1.
The area is Pitt County and one Kinston school with Pitt County talent. South Central, D.H. Conely, J.H. Rose, Kinston’s Arendell Parrott Academy and Ayden-Grifton have all dominated on their respective volleyball courts and others.
Ayden-Grifton (10-1, 3-0) in the 2-A ranks has lost just four sets all season, three of them coming in its season-opening loss to South Central. Since the loss, it has been smooth sailing for the Chargers, who hold a perfect 3-0 record in the Eastern Carolina 2-A Conference with wins over South Lenoir, Washington and Kinston. As the schedule sits, A-G has the opportunity to win out for the remainder of its season, guaranteeing a clear run for a conference title and a high seed in state tournament play.
The 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference holds three programs which fight all season for the right to claim a conference championship and then work into state title play. The grueling schedule makes it seem like South Central, J.H. Rose and D.H. Conley play with the intensity of a state tournament all season long.
SC and head coach Kayla Ruffin hold a perfect 11-0, 3-0 record with a big win over Rose (3-0 at on Sept. 28), placing the Falcons at the top of the conference. The Falcons have given up only five sets this season. Quick reactions and strong blocks by the front line have them poised for a showdown with D.H. Conley for the first time this season on Tuesday, and they will meet once more as SC travels to DHC on Oct. 11.
Wednesday will give the Falcons another in-county test as they face Rose at home.
It’s all about the system for Jennifer Gillikin and the Vikings. Fluid passing and some powerful spikes headline an entertaining and supremely talented squad that holds an 11-0, 4-0 record. DHC has lost the lowest amount of sets in the conference and the county, dropping only two all season. After a 3-1 win over J.H. Rose at home on Sept. 11, Gillikin said she believed “there was not a better match played in the state tonight,” a testament to the level of competition presented by the Vikings’ rivals and conference foes.
“We couldn’t ask for a better conference. To have three or four teams in the conference that are strong provides some really great opportunities for us to improve,” Gillikin said.
J.H. Rose sits fourth in the conference, just behind leaders SC, DHC and third-place New Bern. The Rampants hold a 9-3, 2-2 record, dropping 17 sets to opponents. Close non-conference wins at Cleveland (3-2 on Aug. 21) and Ashley (3-2 on Aug. 24) show Rose’s potential. Power hitters and great on-court communication have kept the Rampants a team to be feared. Like his rival counterpart in Gillikin, Rose head coach Norman Cabacar understands that the intense competition in regular season helps prepare his squad for the post-season.
“South Central right now is clicking on all cylinders,” Cabacar said. “It actually helps us prepare for the playoffs. Our non-conference strength of schedule is something like second or third in the state. Then to have those teams that we play against in conference, at least those two teams (DHC and SC), it really helps make us better. It’s great to have these teams in our conference and to battle each other.”
Parrott Academy has many students who call Pitt County home. The Patriots sit a 12-0 as they prepare for play in the NCISAA Eastern Plains Conference. Only two opponents have snatched away sets from the Patriots in C.B. Aycock (in a 3-1 loss to APA on Aug. 8) and Caldwell Academy (a 3-2 loss to APA on Aug. 13). APA. Head coach David Barnes and his team will have stiff competition, especially in Cary Christian Academy, which currently sits atop the conference at 14-0, 2-0.
Contact Jake Keator at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @Jake KeatorDR on Twitter.