The N.C. High School Athletic Association volleyball champions were completed on Saturday with three new state champions and a three-time state champion. Titles were won by Green Hope, Marvin Ridge, Currituck County, and Falls Lake Academy over Panther Creek, D.H. Conley, West Davidson, and Polk County, respectively.
Here are a few photos, notes, and quotes from all four matches.
4A: Green Hope 3, Panther Creek 0
GREEN HOPE (Cary, N.C.): The Falcons took down their crosstown rival for the third time this year, winning 25-15, 25-15, 25-18. Green Hope (27-1) is the second Wake County public school to win three volleyball state championships, joining Millbrook and is the only program to win three straight volleyball titles at the 4A level.
For the third straight year, setter Sydney Dowler won the championship match MVP award.
Dowler, a junior who has committed to Maryland, is just the fourth player to win three MVP awards. Only Hendersonville’s Molly Plyles has won the maximum number: four MVPs in four years.
With the same nucleus from last year and the year before, coach Karl Redelfs said he’s been more laid back in his coaching style as his now-upperclassmen have earned more trust with each year.
“My job is so easy,” Redelfs said. “People will say ‘Oh, he doesn’t even coach’ and that’s perfect. I love it, because it means I’ve done my job.”
The Falcons were led by Dowler’s 34 assists and 14 digs (she added two aces and six kills). Annie Elvin added 12 kills, while Grace Patrick and Priscilla Jones (eight blocks) each added eight. Taylor Nomanson had 15 digs. Senior Mary Wasilak won the NCHSAA sportsmanship award.
PANTHER CREEK (Cary, N.C.): This postseason marked the first time the Catamounts’ program had made it past the third round. The anomaly of a Wake County team ending up in the western bracket — having never happened before in NCHSAA history (there were two this year, with Apex Friendship the other) — worked to Panther Creek’s favor as they took down some of the top programs in Charlotte and the Triad along the way.
Of the five losses Panther Creek (18-5) took this season, three were to Green Hope and the other two were avenged later in the year. A loss to a rival stings, as does a loss in the state championship, but the unprecedented height of the accomplishment was comforting.
“This has been an awesome year for us, making school history,” coach Karen Garmon said. “I think [going west] was a positive thing for the girls, seeing some new competition.”
In the loss, Lauren Della had seven kills and 14 digs, and Rachel Schaffer had 12 digs. Senior Jenna Magner won the NCHSAA sportsmanship award.
3A: Marvin Ridge 3, D.H. Conley 0
MARVIN RIDGE (Marvin, N.C.): The Mavericks spent this season playing as many teams in North and South Carolina as they could, and it paid off on Saturday with a 25-22, 25-8, 25-16 sweep.
Marvin Ridge (44-2) ends the year with an NCHSAA record in single-season victories. The only losses came to out-of-state schools. Having played so many matches, there was nothing Conley could do that the Mavericks hadn’t seen before.
“I have to schedule tough teams,” coach Brooke Hammers said. “I’ve got to see what they do under pressure. And they don’t crack very often.”
Maggie Young (11 kills) was the team’s sportsmanship award winner and Mac Russ (12 kills) was the MVP. Lexi Thomas added nine kills and Olivia Headrick had eight as the Mavericks’ front row dominated the match. Adriana Jordan had 34 assists.
D.H. CONLEY (Greenville, N.C.): The Vikings (26-1) finished runner-up for the seventh time in school history in its first state final appearance since 2008. The perfect season didn’t seem to be far out of Conley’s grasp until the second set when Marvin Ridge’s tall front row went to work.
“Marvin Ridge ran a really quick offense, and our blockers just couldn’t get to it,” coach Jennifer Gillikin said. “It tells us in the offseason we need to start working to get faster, and we’ll start that as soon as the dead period’s over.”
Conley’s Kourtney Stone was her team’s sportsmanship award winner. Alexis DeSoto had a team-high nine kills, and Olivia Hunt had a game-high 22 digs.
2A: Currituck County 3, West Davidson 0
CURRITUCK COUNTY (Barco, N.C.): The Knights looked like a team that was more than ready for their moment in the state championship spotlight after years of running into powerhouses Carrboro and South Granville in the late rounds of the NCHSAA tournament.
Currituck (22-6) dominated most of the match, winning 25-13, 25-9, 25-21. Kamryn Johnson earned MVP honors with 16 kills and 37 digs. Johnson, who will play beach volleyball next year at Stetson University in Florida, has more than 1,100 career kills and more than 1,100 career digs.
Kayleigh Reagan-Smith had 32 digs to help Johnson lead an impeccable defensive effort. Merritt Woodson added 10 kills. Laura Griffin was the NCHSAA sportsmanship award winner.
“I don’t think we could’ve done it without our fans and this love of the team,” Reagan-Smith said. “We’ve come such a long way since the beginning of the season. This team is not the same team as the beginning of the season, and I am so proud of that.”
WEST DAVIDSON (Tyro, N.C.): The Dragons (26-7), also making their first appearance in the state volleyball championship game, weren’t able to get their offense going against a Currituck team that was everywhere defensively, totaling 101 digs.
“They touched every ball that came up,” coach Michael Green said. “We were scrambling, trying to figure out where to put it, but it was almost like their court was a little bit smaller than ours tonight.”
Cassie Riggs had 19 assists and 10 digs. Ashley Johnson had a team-high nine kills. Staley Temple was the NCHSAA sportsmanship award winner from the Dragons.
1A: Falls Lake Academy 3, Polk County 0
FALLS LAKE ACADEMY (Creedmoor, N.C.): The Firebirds won 25-19, 28-26, 25-22 to capture not only the program’s first state title, but also the first one in school history in any sport.
This is the first year that Falls Lake Academy (24-5) has had a senior class. Sophomore Chase Teal (10 kills, 18 assists, 15 digs) pulled off a rare sweep of the MVP and sportsmanship awards given before and after the championship final.
Late in the year, Falls Lake fell into a three-game skid as injuries piled up.
“It gave them the chance to recover and come back at 100 percent,” coach Corrinna Sammons said. “When you’re riding that train really high, it takes a loss for you to remember what you’re working [for] and what you’re so hungry for. At that time, it was what we needed.”
Austin Proctor added 25 assists for the Firebirds, while Lauren Montren (eight kills), Macey Sammons (eight kills, 11 digs) and Hannah Collier (seven kills) mixed into the attack as well.
POLK COUNTY (Columbus, N.C.): The Wolverines (21-8), also making their first appearance in the state championship, were coming off an incredible run in the western regional, knocking off the 3-seed, 2-seed, and 1-seed on the road in consecutive rounds over a six-day span.
“We had two games this week that were three hours both ways. That was extremely difficult but we made it work,” said coach Molly Hill. “It was a hard two weeks, that’s for sure.”
Polk County went back-and-forth with Falls Lake over the last two sets, and perhaps that match would’ve gone much differently if the second set had gone the other way. But the Wolverines had several moments to be proud of in a match filled with tension.
Alex Romano was the NCHSAA sportsmanship award winner from Polk County. The Wolverines got 32 assists from Sydney Waldman and 11 kills from Grace Lauer. Ansley Lynch had 13 digs and Kristen Hall had 16. Mireya Roman and Marilyn Castillo each notched eight kills.