10/24/07 — NCHSAA volleyball playoffs: South Central dismisses Eastern Wayne

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NCHSAA volleyball playoffs: South Central dismisses Eastern Wayne

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 24, 2007 3:01 PM

Leading 2-1 in games and holding serve with a four-point lead in game four, Eastern Wayne's volleyball team couldn't close the deal Tuesday evening.

South Central made sure of it.

The Falcons reeled off six consecutive points to forge a 2-2 tie in the best-of-five, second-round postseason encounter. They took control in the decisive fifth game and turned back the Warriors 17-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-23, 15-9.

Tri-champions of the Class 3-A Coastal Conference, South Central (17-4 overall) entertains league rival West Carteret in third-round action of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs on Thursday.

Eastern Wayne concluded the year 21-2 overall.

"We just stopped," said Eastern Wayne coach Bruce Burridge, who shrugged his shoulders in despair. "Our passing went away and some of our serve receive went away. For some reason, we got nervous when we got two games behind us."

The teams battled through a combined 16 ties and five lead changes in the first two games. The Warriors controlled the tempo, executed its offense and got strong hitting efforts from seniors Brittani Billups and Jordei Osby on the outsides.

Both players ripped shots to the back corners and down the line, which stretched the South Central defense and disrupted its offense.

"We all had to get on the same playing level," said South Central's Emily Perkins, a senior left-side hitter. "Our heads were not together and we had to play as a team. I think we came in overconfident and realized they are a good team."

After seizing its two-game advantage, Eastern Wayne forgot to keep the pace in game three. The Falcons broke a 3-3 tie with a 7-1 run that ended on Andrea Britt's off-speed shot down the line. The Warriors pulled within 12-8 on Anna Hajjar's kill off Brooke Newsome's assist.

Nina Varner's kill and Shelby Summers' two service aces pushed South Central's advantage to 16-8. Billups' kill off another Newsome assist, one of her 42 assists overall during the two-hour marathon, closed the gap to 16-13.

Eastern Wayne stayed within striking distance, however, it couldn't avoid giving up two- and three-point mini runs. Despite wasting four game points, the Falcons benefited from an unforced error to keep their postseason alive.

Burridge said South Central turned the table offensively and began attacking the same areas that proved profitable for Eastern Wayne during the first two games. Unlike the Falcons, though, the Warriors never adjusted defensively.

"They were attacking us with free balls to the corners and we knew that was coming every time," said Burridge. "We just didn't cover it."

Billups supplied three of her team-leading 27 kills during an early 4-1 surge in game four. South Central forced numerous sideouts to keep the Warriors' lead at one, but fell behind 23-19 when Hajjar slammed a kill near the corner.

Two Varner kills, coupled with four Warrior miscues, gave the Falcons a 25-23 win. Tied at 2-2, South Central head coach Jamie Bullock reminded her team of its five-game comeback against county rival J.H. Rose.

"I told them we had been in this spot before," said Bullock.

Perkins delivered four key kills early in the fifth game and libero Shaela Churchill provided two aces as the Falcons took a commanding 10-4 lead. Eastern Wayne, which completely abandoned its game plan, scrambled to within 10-6 on Billups' final kill of her high school career.

The Warriors could get no closer.

South Central tallied the final four points and eliminated Eastern Wayne from the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

"We knew that could have been it and losing is not our specialty," said Perkins of the late-match comeback. "We had to fight hard to the end."

The five-set loss ended the career for eight Warrior seniors -- Billups, Osby, Newsome, Brianna Williams, Regan Stoneburner, Ariel Bowman, Alysa Artis and Carrie Adams.

The eight-player group is responsible for 38 victories and two Eastern Carolina Conference crowns -- regular season and tournament -- during that past two years. They're also responsible for the program's three victories in four playoff appearances.

"Theoretically, we could still be playing if we just played our game," said Burridge. "But these girls have nothing to be ashamed of. We still set some school records and we had a great season."