10/01/04 — OPINION -- Carolina volleyball is better than ever

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OPINION -- Carolina volleyball is better than ever

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 1, 2004 1:56 PM

Good teams and good athletes thrive against quality competition. They notice their mistakes, correct them the next day in practice and apply that valuable knowledge the next time they step onto the court.

That competitive nature, that internal drive to succeed, has certainly been evident this season among the area's Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball teams. On any given day, and it was proven the first week, anything can happen if you don't put forth a 100-percent effort each time the ball is served.

The competitiveness surfaced when archrivals North Duplin and Spring Creek butted heads. The intensity and disappointment of that loss fueled North Duplin's inner soul when it pulled off a monumental upset against North Johnston -- which hadn't lost to the Rebels in any girls sport in a four-year span.

From that point, competitiveness has defined this conference.

Some coaches attribute the competitive attitude to a better balance among the teams.

They are right.

While Farmville Central seems to be one level above everyone else, there is very little drop off from second to seventh place in this league. Every team has a "go-to" person and every team plays a scrappy, hard-nosed style that obviously draws respect from the opponent.

Not one team is taken for granted.

Princeton and Rosewood extended the Jaguars to five sets this season. The same two teams have either escaped with victories against North Duplin, Spring Creek or North Johnston, or have come extremely close to gaining a crucial win which could prove valuable at season's end.

The sad thing is only two teams will earn a trip to the playoffs. Barring a major catastrophe, Farmville Central should clinch one of those berths. That leaves one spot that might or might not change in the season-ending conference tournament. That also means three quality teams will stay home.

That's a shame.

Senior Bethany Malcolm and junior Sierra Ward, who have helped resuscitate a floundering North Duplin program, could miss out on experiencing the playoffs. Lorenda Brogden, a strong leader on and off the court at Spring Creek, might think the Gators' hard off-season work with a new coach has been all for nothing.

One year after enduring an unusual losing season, Princeton is back in the mix with a new coach.

Rosewood and North Johnston, just like a year ago, find themselves dueling for second place and higher stakes.

The competition gets tighter in the next two weeks. Several key matches remain which will help shake out the seedings for the tournament. The pressure will fall on the teams in positions two, three and four once tournament play begins. All three must survive first-round play and prevent lower-seeded teams from upsetting the proverbial apple cart.

The regular-season champion is the tournament host.

Here is a list of previous Carolina 1-A champions:

1985 Lakewood

1986 North Duplin

1987 North Duplin

1988 Midway

1989 Midway

1990 Midway

1991 Midway

1992 Princeton

1993 Princeton

1994 Midway

1995 Princeton

1996 Midway

1997 N. Johnston

1998 N. Johnston

1999 N. Johnston

2000 Princeton

2001 Princeton

2002 Princeton

2003 F. Central