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KEATOR: Marvin Ridge speed sinks Vikings' ship

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Marvin Ridge's Mac Russ goes up for a kill between D.H. Conley defenders Elana Fuller, left, and Macy Smith during the 3-A state championship match in Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State.

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, November 4, 2018

RALEIGH

I saw something new Saturday night at Reynolds Coliseum. D.H Conley’s volleyball team was trailing.

The Vikings may have surrendered a few points here and there in the beginning of a first set during the regular season, of course, but to be as deep as 20 points into a set and still see the Vikings behind was a wake-up call. They dropped Game 1 to Marvin Ridge, 25-22, in the 3-A state championship after previously losing only seven total sets for a 26-0 match record.

Especially in a state title game, neither team can really prepare for what the other may bring to the table.

Will it be speed, length, power? It’s tough to guess because the two sides come from opposite ends of the state, and when one side brings the entire package, it can be hard to overcome.

That’s exactly what West Region and state champion Marvin Ridge did when it faced the Vikings. The Mavericks had an unbelievable duo of middle hitters in Maggie Young and match MVP Mac Russ. Conley coach Jennifer Gillikin admitted that Marvin Ridge’s pace of play was a problem for her squad, despite DHC being one of the best defensive teams in the state.

The speed of the Mavericks’ attacks really showed late in Game 2 and early in the third and final set of a 25-22, 25-8, 25-16 sweep. 

It was certainly a lot to overcome, with outside hitter Lexi Thomas putting her sets right in line for Young and Russ to slam home kills, the Vikings needed to make adjustments on the fly. They did, and there seemed to be a change in the play style as they shifted to slowing down the pace to compensate for the speed at which they were receiving the ball.

The adjustments did prove useful in the final set. After a 25-8 lopsided second set, Conley was slightly more composed in Game 3 with Macy Smith and Olivia Lefever working to set up Elana Fuller and Hannah Shafer.

But Marvin Ridge (44-2) won a state-record 44 matches for its first state title. Conley finished 26-1. The number of matches made a difference.

“I think that playing so many games this year against so many teams with different types of weapons made us more prepared going into this,” Russ said on her team’s season.

While it didn’t end in a state championship, the Vikings should be proud of all they achieved.

An undefeated run through the East Region, another 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference title and bragging rights over their fiercest rivals are all notable accomplishments. Gillikin also won’t have to worry too much about the future of her Vikings, despite losing seven seniors including Shafer, Fuller and Smith, with names such as Lefever (only a sophomore) and Alexis Desoto set to return next year.

“Im proud of these seniors and everything they’ve done for our team,” Gillikin said. “I’m also excited about the girls we have coming back. This program will be strong for years to come.”

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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