Volleyball team wins CPC, heading to state tourney

Published 10:50 am Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Davie volleyball team got several monkeys off its back during the Central Piedmont Conference season.

• A 500-pound gorilla was perched on the War Eagles’ collarbone until they beat Reagan for the first time ever on Sept. 25.

• Davie finished first in the regular season, sharing the crown with Reagan, for the first time in 16 years.

• Davie captured the CPC Tournament for the first time in 31 years, again interrupting Reagan’s domination.

The War Eagles were guaranteed at least a share of the regular-season title when they hosted Reagan on Oct. 15. After beating Reagan for the first time in 23 tries in September, the Raiders got even in the second meeting, winning 3-1 to stop the longest winning streak (18) in Davie’s 42-year history.

The scores were 25-18, 19-25, 22-25, 23-25. It was Davie’s first loss since Aug. 16 to Foard, which was 21-2 at this point in the season.

Davie and Reagan tied for first with 9-1 CPC records. While Reagan finished alone or tied for first for the ninth consecutive year, Davie earned its first regular-season title since 2002.


Davie and Reagan received first-round byes in the CPC Tournament. In the semifinals at East Forsyth on Oct. 17, second-seeded Davie sleepwalked through the first set but recovered to beat the No. 3 Titans in four sets.

“We started really sluggish,” coach Amber Brandon said. “Things were not working at all. The first set was the worst set I’ve ever seen us play. We were thankful to get out of there with a win.”

West tumbled to 12-14 and lost to Davie for the 10th straight time.

The War Eagles secured the third 20-win season in their history. They went 21-6 in 1981 and 23-5 last year. Two of the three have come on Brandon’s watch. Becky Miller is the program’s winningest coach, going 129-117 in 10 years from 2005-14. Brandon, No. 2 on the list, is 78-24 in four years.


In the CPC Tournament final the next night at East, Davie erased the second-meeting sting, beating top-seeded Reagan and celebrating the first tournament title since 1987. To put that drought in perspective, their coach was born five years later.

Between 1996-2017, Davie went 0-4 in CPC Tournament finals, losing to South Iredell in 2002, to North Davidson in 2003, to Mt. Tabor in 2008 and to Reagan in 2017.

“This was relief,” Brandon said. “All season it’s been what is this group going to do? I think they felt some pressure. Before the match, we talked about this could be the last time you ever get to play Reagan. I said: ‘Let’s have fun. Sell out for each other. No pressure.’ And that’s what they did. It was a good team win.”

In the first set, Reagan wiped out Davie’s 5-1 lead and won 25-19. “It was evident that their goal was just to put the ball back over the net and let us make mistakes,” she said. “In the first set, we did that.”

In the second set, Davie rallied for a 25-23 win. “We didn’t hit the panic button,” she said.

In the third set, Reagan held leads of 9-6, 14-10 and 21-20. But Davie put together a late 5-2 run to win 25-23.

In the fourth set, Davie had the wind at its back, carving out leads of 7-3, 13-7 and 18-10 before winning 25-17.

The Raiders, who won the past three tournament titles by knocking off Tabor twice and Davie once, slipped to 21-5.

The War Eagles improved to 21-2 while overcoming the loss of freshman Ali Angell, who missed both tournament matches with an injury. The tournament starters were seniors Lauren Grooms, Emma Slabach, Abby Wilkins, Cara Terry and Morgan Flores and junior Zoey Clark. Freshman Aimee Loj rotated with Terry and junior Dakota Hutchins rotated with Clark.

Wilkins was an absolute monster against West and Reagan.

“If we did an MVP of the tournament, it wouldn’t even be a conversation,” Brandon said. “Abby would have been MVP, hands down. She was phenomenal (vs. West) and she played great again (vs. Reagan). She was super, super smart. Her knowledge of the game has grown so much in four years. She was ripping. When I called a timeout, I said: ‘You can always throw a tip in there.’ She said: ‘Nope.’ She was swinging.”

Give credit to a resurgent Clark.

“Zoey had struggled the past four or five matches,” she said. “(Against Reagan) she came alive in the second set. She played really good, and that’s huge for us. When she is playing well, we are a lot more in sync. To me, she’s the quiet key player. Zoey is definitely one of the smartest, if not the smartest, players I’ve ever coached. She knows when to take a big swing. She knows when to put the ball in play. She knows how to find the court if she’s offbalance. Her and Lauren have played together for three years, so they have a really good connection. Lauren is comfortable on where Zoey needs the ball.”

And then there’s the engine, Grooms, the fourth-year varsity setter. “Lauren makes everybody look better,” she said. “That’s what she’s good at. She does a great job of making her hitters look good.”