Broughton survives D.H. Conley, advances to fourth round

Posted October 23, 2014
Updated October 24, 2014

We WON! D.H. Conley High School visits Broughton High School in Raleigh N.C. on Thursday October 23, 2014 for round three of playoff volleyball. Broughton took the match by a score of 3 to 1 and will advance in the playoffs. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

— As the top seed in the 4-A East playoff volleyball bracket, the undefeated Broughton Capitals faced little adversity on their road to the postseason. They made up for that Thursday night in the third round.

The Capitals grabbed a quick lead against visiting D.H. Conley before dropping just their sixth set of the season and responding in the next two, winning in four games (25-14, 27-25, 25-21, 26-24) to eliminate the No. 8 Vikings and advance to the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association state playoffs. Volleyball: D.H. Conley vs. Broughton (Oct. 23, 2014) Volleyball: D.H. Conley vs. Broughton (Oct. 23, 2014)

"[The Vikings] are always smart and tough and relentless and you've got to really work to beat them," said Broughton Head Coach Jim Freeman. "That's what they were tonight."

Conley (20-4, 10-2) posed one of the biggest threats yet to the perfect Broughton record. The Vikings made the eastern regional final match in each of the past two seasons and lost just ten sets in all of 2014 entering the meeting with the Capitals (19-0, 14-0).

Broughton entered Thursday evening having lost just five sets all season, two of which coming in the Caps' second-round 3-2 victory over conference-foe Leesville Road on Tuesday. Broughton's junior outsider hitter Katja Ehlers said the recent close calls have been good for the group.

"It's brought us closer as a team," Ehlers said. "We've bonded and we've picked up our game to meet the situation that's ahead of us."

Ehlers led her team in kills with 19, while Adria Johnson contributed ten more, Tiana Butler had nine and Kati Smith has seven.

The Caps needed little picking up in the first set of the match, playing close with the Vikings until pulling ahead and scoring the last eight points of the frame to win 25-14.

The Vikings bounced back in the second set to give the Caps a rare digit in the loss column. Trailing 24-21 and on the verge of digging a 2-0 hole in the match, Conley manufactured a 6-1 run behind two kills from Kalee Vanderhorst and an ace from Caitlyn Smirne.

"I think our kids in the first set were a little bit on the nervous side," said Conley Head Coach Jennifer Gillikin. "In the second set they really picked up the intensity and they just went after it."

Ehlers and Broughton led through the majority of the third set and avoided another Viking comeback with a 25-21 victory. The pivotal point of the match came in the fourth frame, when Conley took a quick 7-0 lead and appeared well on the way to forcing a fifth and final game. That's when Freeman and the Caps called a timeout.

"I mostly wanted to appeal to their pride and get them playing with more of a purpose to win, rather than just playing not to make mistakes or being afraid to fail," Freeman said. "That's not going to win. We needed to flip that and go play with that kind of approach, mentally and emotionally, where we were going to win."

The Capitals scored six consecutive points coming out of the timeout, starting with a kill from Butler and two more points from Smith. Still, Vanderhorst accounted for seven kills and two aces in the final set to keep Conley competitive until the end.

Trailing 24-23, Broughton put the game away with consecutive kills from Butler, Rachel Byrd and Johnson. Johnson's deciding game point sealed the third-round victory.

"They did a good job of running a quick offense," Gillikin said of the Capitals. "They just kept swinging at us. Our blockers were going up strong and our passers were moving, but they just hit the ball."

Now battle-tested, Broughton will face another strong team in No. 4 Hoggard, which defeated No. 12 Apex Thursday night to advance on the other side of the bracket. Freeman says Conley helped the Caps realize there is plenty to improve on before the next round.

"We've managed to show really good resilience, but we need to be able to sustain a certain level of play better than we've done in the last two matches," he said.

Broughton will host Hoggard on Saturday with a trip to the 4-A eastern regional final match on the line.

Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT


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