10/27/06 — South Central ends Eastern Wayne's historic run in volleyball

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South Central ends Eastern Wayne's historic run in volleyball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 27, 2006 2:15 PM

Eastern Wayne had nothing left.

After playing a near-flawless third game, the Warriors started game four in quick fashion. But South Central weathered the early rally and prevailed 25-22, 25-21, 15-25, 25-19 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A, eastern quarterfinal volleyball playoff match.

The Falcons (17-4) oppose nemesis and 2005 state runner-up D.H. Conley in the eastern semifinals on Saturday. Conley ousted Wilson Beddingfield in four games.

The Warriors concluded the year 17-3.

"I can't take anything away from the girls," said Eastern Wayne coach Bruce Burridge. "We could have laid down and died after that second game, but we didn't. We just took it right back to them with the attitude 'you're not going to come into our house and beat us.'"

Eastern Wayne used an 8-2 run to take control in game three. Outside hitter Brittany Billups started the surge with a kill and middle hitter Anna Wilkins, who had been shut down the first two games, opened up offensively. She slammed three kills off middle blocker Reese Mills, who failed to close out the block each time.

South Central pulled within 14-10 on an unforced error by the Warriors, but couldn't get any closer. Inconsistent passing and miscommunication on defense plagued the Falcons.

The Warriors put the game away with a 7-0 run. Carly Boyette and Billups used the South Central block well and combined for three kills.

"We took number 12 (Mills) out of her game," said Burridge. "She got tired and she wasn't penetrating the net. She was three or four inches off the net, and we kept telling the girls to hit the block ... pound it."

Brianna Williams served and ace and Billups capped the run with a solo block against the Falcons' outside hitter Emily Perkins.

The teams traded sideouts until Eastern Wayne tallied back-to-back points off kills from Wilkins and junior outside hitter Jordei Osby. Osby finished with a playoff- and season-high 15 kills.

"We've been doing this all season where we have one bad game," said South Central coach Jamie Bullock. "I knew the third game was going to be hard for us because I knew they (Eastern Wayne) were thinking about this is going to be their last game.

"I knew they'd want it much more."

Osby delivered two kills and Billups contributed an off-speed hit down the line to give Eastern Wayne a 3-0 advantage in game four. The Warriors extended their advantage to 10-5 before South Central answered with a game-tying 6-1 run.

Wilkins and Osby continued their strong hitting at the net, but the Falcons never let them pull away again. LeAnna Rothwell's solo block against Amanda Davis trimmed the deficit to 18-17. However, the Warriors couldn't hold serve.

Nina Varner and Mills notched back-to-back kills to make it 20-17. South Central reeled off five of the final seven points, and handed Eastern Wayne its third home loss of the season.

"We have heart," said Bullock. "We're a young team, but we fight hard."

Burridge said blocking factored into the overall outcome. Eastern Wayne had trouble closing its block throughout the match, and South Central's hitters found open holes either down the line or in the deep corners.

The Warriors' backline players pulled up several balls, but also yielded too many points at critical times. South Central had 11 solo blocks and 34 kills as team. Perkins and Varner combined for 21 kills.

Eastern Wayne countered with 41 kills and just five blocks. Billups provided 15 kills and one solo block. Wilkins and Rothwell combined for eight kills and two solo blocks. Brooke Newsome dished out 40 assists.

"We brought our game, but it just wasn't enough," said Burridge, whose team posted 66 digs. "They have more attack than anybody we've seen all year and we knew that was coming. We prepared for it, but it's something we really haven't seen all year.

"(But) they kept pouring it on and pouring it on. We just ran out at the end; had nothing left to keep going."

It was the final match for six seniors -- Wilkins, Boyette, Rothwell, Meghan Pittman, Syrena Bryant and Jasmine McLamb.

The players received loud cheers and applause from parents and friends when they exited the back hallway after Burridge's final post-game speech of the season. The tears quickly dried and smiles returned to the players' faces.

The Warriors are, after all, the most-successful volleyball team in school history. They collected a school-record 17 wins, enjoyed a program-best 11-match win streak and earned ECC regular-season and tournament championships.

"That's the greatest bunch of girls ... kids I've ever coached, period," said Burridge. "We've got big shoes to fill next year."