On senior night, the Falcons clinched their first regular season conference title since 2011 with a four-set win (25-16, 24-26, 25-22 and 25-22) over D.H. Conley Thursday.
With this win, South Central (17-0, 12-0 Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A) secured a season sweep of the Vikings. They’ll be the top seed for the conference tournament which begins next week.
The Vikings (19-3, 10-2) will be the number two seed after losing this match and a five-set thriller to the Falcons on September 24th.
“Its a great feeling,” Falcons head coach Kayla Ruffin said. “The last time we won a conference title, I was playing for South Central, so it was great for us to clinch it outright.”
All four sets were played at an extremely high level on both sides. The opening set began with SC using a 10-point run to make the score 15-10.
They’d keep a comfortable lead and thanks to the play of Alli Ruffin and Alleigh Johnson, the Falcons would take the first set, but the Vikings would respond with a huge comeback in the second set.
Trailing 21-13, the Vikings used a 13-3 run to even the match at one set apiece.
South Central was down 15-13 in the third set before back-to-back kills from Alli Ruffin tied the set. A 4-0 run gave the Falcons a 19-15 lead before a 4-1 run by the Vikings made it close once again.
The Falcons then scored back-to-back points to distance themselves from the Vikings. Another big kill from Alleigh Johnson made it set point and the Falcons closed it out to take a 2-1 lead.
Perhaps the biggest point of the match came in the fourth set. Conley started with a 10-6 advantage before SC rallied to tie at 17. A no-look tip over the net by Falcons senior setter Grace Sweers gave South Central an 18-17 lead. The Falcons didn’t trail for the remainder of the match.
“I’ve been working on that in practice all season,” Sweers said. “I had to get comfortable with it first, so being able to execute that in a big match was awesome.”
South Central and D.H. Conley now await their opponents for the conference tournament semifinals after achieving a first round bye.
“I hope they know they can outlast teams if they want to,” Ruffin added. “It got hot in the gym and most teams would break down in that situation, but we kept pushing as a team. We still have some things to work on, but we’re definitely happy to get this win.”
Follow Laieke Abebe on Twitter at @LMAPreps.