Volleyball

Broughton volleyball drops Hoggard to reach first regional final

Posted October 25, 2014

The Capitals Adria Johnson (18) serving. Hoggard High School faces Broughton High School in the NCHSAA Volleyball 2014 Playoffs on Saturday October 25. After a good challenge from the Vikings, Broughton dug in and took the match 3 to 1. (Chris Baird / WRAL Contributor).

— The Broughton Capitals continued their commanding run through the postseason Saturday afternoon, defeating the Hoggard Vikings in four sets (25-15, 21-25, 25-9, 27-25) to advance to their first 4-A eastern regional final in school history.

The match followed a similar narrative to the past several Broughton postseason victories, which went back and forth before the Capitals eventually proved their superiority. The team has now lost just seven sets through the entire season.

The Capitals (20-0, 14-0) saw impressive performances from many of their key offensive players. Katja Ehlers led the team with 24 kills. Tiana Butler had 15 kills and two aces, Kati Smith had 32 assists, 11 kills and two aces and Adria Johnson added seven kills and four aces.

“I had my back girl calling shots for me, I had my setter setting me amazing balls, and then my defense and back row passing them right on target,” said Ehlers. “It was a whole group effort.

“It’s so much fun. We get on our groove and we just keep playing our game. It’s unbelievably fun to play with them.”

Still holding an unblemished record as they prepare for their fifth postseason game, the top-seeded Capitals will host No. 2 J.H. Rose on Tuesday with a state championship appearance on the line. Rose defeated East Chapel Hill on Saturday in its fourth-round match.

Although no Broughton team in the past has ever reached a regional final match in volleyball, Head Coach Jim Freeman said he knew all season that his team was capable of playing at that level.

“I thought we had a chance to get there,” he said. “There are so many really good teams that you can't bank on that, but I sure thought we could be a team that could pull it off.”

Hoggard (22-3, 12-0) was off its game in the first set of the match, quickly digging an 11-4 hole after three aces from Johnson. The Vikings were never able to establish a rhythm and the Capitals took a quick 25-15 win.

The Vikings, who had reached two of the past three 4-A eastern regional final matches prior to this season, responded well in the second set with critical late kills from Alyssa Zupan. The teams were tied at 20-20 before Hoggard took control and won 25-21.

“It’s a factor when you have all these really good teams and you just can’t sustain a really high level of play before they push back and you’re back on your heels,” said Freeman. “The goal is to try to limit the negative stretches. Obviously, that’s really hard to do. You can look so comfortable one minute and you’re completely uncomfortable the next minute.”

Continuing the back-and-forth theme, Broughton smothered Hoggard in the third set with a 25-9 victory. Already struggling, the Vikings allowed the Capitals to end the set on a 7-0 run.

While the Vikings came close to winning the fourth game and forcing a decisive fifth, Ehlers and Butler each recorded kills to keep the game tied in the final moments. Tied 25-25, Hoggard’s final two balls sailed out of bounds to end the match.

“We played a really good second game and we played a great fourth game,” said Hoggard Head Coach Ron Strickland. “We just got a couple of inopportune calls that could have gone either way, and that changed momentum and let them start climbing. We didn’t stop them and we didn’t finish.

“They play really solid ball. They always had an outside attack, which we knew, and we defended it relatively well. We struggled getting our attack going because we didn’t pass particularly well.”

Defensively, Genna Simpkins led the Capitals with 14 digs and Smith had 11 more.

The time of Broughton’s regional match against Rose on Tuesday has not yet been decided. The winner will play in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A state championship Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

Follow Zach Mayo on Twitter at @ZachMayoHSOT

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