Volleyball beats Reagan for first time

Published 9:34 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

Last year the Davie and Reagan volleyball teams went to the wire three times. The War Eagles experienced late-match wobbles each time, dropping the fifth sets 15-9, 16-14 and 15-8. The last excruciating near-miss prevented them from advancing to the final eight in the state playoffs for the first time.

The War Eagles were in a similar situation at Reagan on Sept. 25. In the fifth set, they trailed 10-8. This time they survived the late pressure, beating the Reagan juggernaut for the first time ever and taking over sole possession of first place in the Central Piedmont Conference. The scores were 16-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-16, 15-10.

Davie was 0-22 in the all-time series, including 0-4 in 2017. Reagan’s 3-2 win in the third round of the playoffs ended Davie’s record-setting season at 23-5. The 2017 Raiders finished first in the CPC for the eighth year in a row, reached the final four and finished 28-2.

The 2018 Raiders (13-3, 3-1 CPC) saw their winning streak in CPC regular seasons/tournaments end at 26. Their other losses were 3-2 to Hough, which is tied for first in the I-Meck 4-A Conference, and 3-1 to Ardrey Kell, which is holding first in the South Meck 7 4-A Conference.

While the War Eagles (14-1, 5-0) haven’t ended their title famine yet, they’re in the driver’s seat for their first CPC championship since 2002.

“It was a sweet win,” Davie coach Amber Brandon said. “There was not a single set that we led early. It speaks a lot to this group for their maturity, what they went through last year and how it prepared them for this year.”

“We wanted this game more than anything, and we just had our mind set on it,” senior Morgan Flores told the Winston-Salem Journal.

The War Eagles were psyched out of their minds as they hit the court, but their fire hardly translated into early success, losing the first set by nine points.

Brandon: “The kids were super fired up in warmups. I looked at those five seniors (Cara Terry, Flores, Emma Slabach, Lauren Grooms and Abby Wilkins) and said: ‘If you don’t have a taste of revenge in your mouths, I don’t know how to get you there.’ (But the first set) was a mess. Nothing was going our way. They wanted to play great and it didn’t work out like that.”

Davie got even in the second set, despite a rocky road. They trailed most of the way. It was 20-16 Reagan before Grooms went on a serving run that helped Davie tie it at 25. Davie took 11 of the final 16 points to prevail 27-25.

The War Eagles dug another hole in the third set, and this time they couldn’t recover. They faced deficits of 15-10 and 19-14. When it was 22-18 Reagan, Terry got hot as server but it wasn’t enough.

In the fourth set, Reagan built leads of 10-6 and 14-8. With Davie staring out over an abyss, Brandon called time.

Brandon: “I said: ‘This is it. This is do or die. This is what we’ve been working for. We know to win the conference we have to beat Reagan, and we have to figure out a game plan.’ We had a minor change in our defense.”

Davie regained its composure. When it was 14-9 Reagan, Flores served Davie to 14 straight points. Davie took 17 of the final 19 to win the set 25-16 and tie the match 2-2.

Brandon: “Emma and Zoey (Clark) found their groove in the fourth set.”

The War Eagles found themselves in desperation mode yet again in the fifth set, trailing 10-8 after the teams were tied 1-1, 3-3 and 5-5. This time they wouldn’t give in. At 10-10, Flores served until the final whistle, Davie won the fifth 15-10 and Davie celebrated a classic match.

Brandon: “The fifth set is the style of volleyball we’ve been playing all season. We were going to the floor for everything. We were making smart decisions. Our hitters were keeping the ball in play and (Reagan) was offbalance. It just took us a long time to settle in.”

Flores (21 digs, five aces), Grooms (34 assists, 13 digs, eight blocks, three aces), Slabach (22 digs, 13 kills, five blocks), Wilkins (seven kills, six digs, five blocks), Aimee Loj (seven digs, seven blocks, five kills), Terry (24 digs), Dakota Hutchins (seven digs), Ali Angell (four blocks) and Clark (15 digs) shared the statistical wealth.

“Morgan is one of those kids if you let her get in a serving rhythm, she’s really tough,” Brandon said. “When she’s serving, it’s probably our best rotation in terms of offense. Morgan is also a phenomenal libero.

“Lauren definitely showed her versatility.

“Emma struggled the first and second set. But she’s such an athlete and such a strong mental player and our coaching staff kept telling her: ‘Don’t get frustrated. It’s going to click. Keep swinging.’ Nine of those 13 kills were in the fourth and fifth sets.

“Zoey had not played six rotations this year. We went to leaving her in the game to have another hitter in, and she stepped up and had a ton of digs in the fourth and fifth sets. She had two great digs in one rally in the fifth set (to give Davie a 13-10 lead). That’s when I knew. I took a deep breath, looked at Carly (Pratapas) and said: ‘We’re going to do this.’”

The freshmen – Loj, who has been filling in for injured Dyllan Everhardt, and Angell – held up well.

Brandon: “Aimee had two great solo blocks at important times. Aimee and Ali were cool, calm and relaxed. It’s exciting to see that they did not play like freshmen.”

For the fourth time in two seasons, Davie and Reagan went five sets. The difference this time: Davie did everything right at crunch time. It was an example of how a championship-caliber team responds to adversity. Talk about a confidence boost for the big picture.

“It started off kind of rocky, but it ended up in the place we wanted it to end up, so that was awesome,” Slabach told the Journal.

“Davie made great plays,” Reagan coach Doug Balser told the Journal. “Everything we sent over the net they were going to get three touches on it. They were going to run it down and dive. And in that fifth set, that was the difference.”

“A lot of it was experience,” Brandon said. “They’ve been in high-pressure games. We knew we had to trust our game, trust our system.”


• To no one’s surprise, Davie took care of West Forsyth and Reynolds in three sets. One day before the Reagan showdown, Davie defeated the Titans for the eighth straight time. Two days after beating Reagan, Davie (15-1, 6-0) brushed aside Reynolds and extended its winning streak to 14. The Demons (0-14, 0-5) are mired in a 19-match losing streak.

• Davie’s JV lost 2-1 to West, fell 2-0 to Reagan and won 2-0 over Reynolds. West stopped Davie’s winning streak at eight. The win over Reynolds raised Davie’s records to 11-5 overall and 4-2 in the CPC.