10/08/04 — West Craven completes sweep of CBA

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West Craven completes sweep of CBA

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 8, 2004 1:56 PM

PIKEVILLE -- The road to the Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference volleyball championship has taken a slight detour this season. Teams must now journey through Vanceboro after West Craven strengthen its grasp on the league's top spot Thursday afternoon.

The Eagles rallied from an opening-set loss and upended defending champion Charles B. Aycock 15-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-23. West Craven exited 12-1 against ECC opposition and completed the regular-season sweep against the Golden Falcons.

Aycock (13-3) dipped to 11-2 in ECC play heading into next Tuesday's contest at long-time nemesis West Carteret.

"I told the girls I was extremely proud of them," a dejected Aycock coach Davis Harris said. "Every one of them stepped up tonight, played scrappy and I saw more players get on the floor tonight than I've seen in a long time.

"There were some times in the match they could have folded and we didn't. We battled and battled hard, but it just didn't end up on our side."

West Craven is just the second ECC team to sweep Aycock in regular-season play since the conference's inception in 2001. West Carteret swept the Golden Falcons en route to the 2002 league championship.

In Harris' tenure, Aycock has dropped just seven league matches in 56 tries.

"I think we made West Craven beat us," Harris said. "I don't think we necessarily lost the match ourselves. We made them beat us ... take advantage of the mistakes we made, and that's what good teams do."

Harris' team took a page from the Eagles' playbook in the opening set. Focused from the opening serve, the Golden Falcons hustled toward every loose ball and ran its offense with precision.

Outside hitter Lindsey Newman collected six of her match-high 17 kills off assists from Julia Lancaster and Chrissy Setliff. Aycock trailed 13-10, but regained the momentum in 10-0 run that included off-speed hits from Lancaster and strong defensive back-line play from Jazzmine Lee and Ashley Morris.

The Eagles struggled in their transition game and gave the Golden Falcons too many free balls, which allowed them to relax and maintain control for a 25-15 win.

West Craven, like it did Tuesday against Eastern Wayne, kept its composure and stayed within the frame work of its offense. The Eagles tightened up on serve receive in the second set and sent better passes to setters Ashley Hill and Carli Heath.

The two constantly fed middle hitters Shannon Dobbs, Natalie Morris and Leslie Jones. The trio struggled finding the holes early against Aycock, which pulled its lone blocker off the net to give an extra defensive player covering the tip.

The Golden Falcons owned a six-point lead, but watched the Eagles put together a 7-1 run to tie the game at 13-13. Hill served three consecutive line-drive aces during that stretch.

The teams traded points until a service error and kill error allowed West Craven to gain control late in the set. Tracey Smith blocked a Newman kill to end the second set and tie the match at 1-1.

Sets three and four played out much like the second set. Aycock put together numerous runs each time on steady play, but also played passive at times which allowed the Eagles to go on runs of their own.

Dobbs dominated the net late in the third set and another hitting error helped West Craven prevail 25-19. Smith ignited a 5-1 run in the final stages of the third set. Jones finished off the Golden Falcons with back-to-back kills in the 25-23, match-clinching win.

"I told the girls the winner of this match is going to be who can stop the runs the soonest," Harris said. "They stopped our runs quicker than we stopped theirs down the stretch."

Newman added 14 digs on defense and had just three hitting errors. Junior outside hitter Kandace Burroughs contributed 11 kills, five digs, four aces and one solo block.

Lancaster recorded a double-double, 19 assists and 21 digs; while Lee added 14 digs. Overall, the Golden Falcons recorded a match- and season-high 77 digs.

Smith and Dobbs combined for 21 kills for the Eagles, while Hill dished out 19 assists and served seven aces. Dobbs and Jones notched three blocks apiece for the Eagles.

"We've got to work to do and we'll be ready for the challenge," Harris said. "We've got to make sure we hold onto second place and whatever happens with them (West Craven), happens with them. We're not going to worry about that.

"If somebody helps us out, and we're even again."

However, the Eagles own the tiebreaker for the postseason. West Craven (13-7), should it claim the ECC crown, gains the home-court advantage and seeding priority for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs which begin Oct. 26.