10/28/07 — Louisburg sweeps Spring Creek

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Louisburg sweeps Spring Creek

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 28, 2007 2:01 AM

LOUISBURG -- "We did all we could."

Fourth-year Spring Creek volleyball coach Deanna Morris offered that summation Saturday after facing perennial Class 1-A power Louisburg. But the Warriors simply over-powered the Gators, who unfortunately wrote the final chapter in their storybook season.

Senior middle hitters Nena Johnson and Brittany Hicks combined for 25 kills as Louisburg prevailed 25-11, 25-16, 25-13 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern semifinal-round contest. The Warriors (22-1 overall) oppose either Lakewood or Dixon for the regional title on Tuesday.

The Gators finished a program-best 17-5.

"They had a lot of height and that was tough," said Morris.

Johnson and Hicks, who are each in the six-foot range, dominated the net against the shorter Gators. And each made their point in the opening game when they received sets from fellow senior Ebony Brown.

Hicks collected two kills and solo blocked the Gators' Tasha Whitfield during a 4-0 run. Johnson converted three consecutive kills during her rotation as Louisburg grabbed a commanding 12-4 advantage.

Spring Creek's inability to dig the ball and create an offensive attack also contributed to the early deficit.

"The girls were probably thinking 'oh, my God. What are we up against and what are we going to do about it?'," said Morris. "We couldn't get that pass up because we couldn't get the balls they were hitting so good and hard."

The Warriors, who haven't lost a game in four postseason matches, couldn't have envisioned a better start.

"If we come right out and get points off the bat, that usually puts a fire under us and we keep hitting," said Louisburg coach Erica Wommack. "A lot of teams we have played all year have not been able to stop Hicks. They did a decent job, but they never really adjusted to our hitting."

The Gators stretched their defense near the baseline to dig up hard shots from Johnson and Hicks in the second game. Once the two hitters recognized the scheme, each switched to off-speed shots either to the middle court or short corners.

Johnson supplied two dumps as the Warriors turned a 5-5 tie into a slim 9-6 lead in game two. Spring Creek pulled within 10-9 on Brandi Simpkins' dig off Brooke Albertson's assist. Hannah Hall set up the point with a dig against Johnson near midcourt.

Louisburg answered.

After a sideout, Johnson served four aces during a 6-0 run as the Warriors pulled ahead 17-9. Whitfield's kill and Ashley Barwick's ace closed the gap to 17-13.

Hicks returned to the net and delivered two kills as Louisburg pulled away for a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five match.

"They just overpowered us," said Morris.

Middle hitter Kristin Smith's kill off Albertson's assist gave the Gators a 1-0 lead in game three. Louisburg reeled off nine of the next 11 points and eventually secured their second consecutive trip to the regional championship game.

The three-game loss ended Spring Creek's bid to become just the third athletic team, male or female, in school history to play for a regional title. The Gators have two regional crowns in the trophy case -- one each for the men's and women's tennis teams.

It was the final match for four Spring Creek seniors -- Whitfield, Albertson, Barwick and defensive specialist Brandi Simpkins. The quartet exit as the first group to win a conference championship during Morris' tenure as coach.

"I told our girls to hold their chins up high," said a proud Morris. "We did our best and we did not give up."