Reagan volleyball slips by Davie in 3rd round

Published 9:57 am Thursday, November 1, 2018

Reagan’s volleyball team beat Davie 3-1 in the third round of the 4-A playoffs on Oct. 27, but it was not an overwhelming 3-1. This was the utter definition of a match that could just as easily have been won by the War Eagles.

Add up the four sets and Davie had 95 points to Reagan’s 94. For the Raiders, the numbers that mattered were 27-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-23.

The Central Piedmont Conference powers went 2-2 in four matchups. Davie won 3-2 on Sept. 25. Reagan won 3-1 on Oct. 15 as the teams shared the CPC regular-season championship. Davie won 3-1 on Oct. 18 to capture the CPC Tournament. Then Reagan ended Davie’s season in the third round for the second year in a row.

In 2018, the teams played 17 sets; Reagan claimed nine of them, Davie eight. The running score over four matchups was Davie 369, Reagan 366.

You can see there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two sides in 2018. But Reagan (23-5) survived a breathless battle in Davie’s gym with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line.

Earlier in the week, the War Eagles, who received a first-round bye virtue of their No. 1 seed in the West Region, hammered visiting Grimsley 3-0 in the second round on Oct. 25. The 16th-seeded Whirlies finished 12-10. Davie (22-2) moved one win from its single-season record.


In the round of 16, Davie and No. 8 Reagan collided for the eighth time in two years and for the fourth time in 28 days. It was a fascinating match before a frenzied crowd.

Reagan won the first set 27-25. Davie held leads of 7-4, 9-6, 11-6 and 16-10. It clung to leads of 17-16, 18-17 and 20-18. Davie held a 22-20 edge when Dyllan Everhardt delivered a kill. Emma Slabach’s kill forced a tie at 23. Davie had a 24-23 lead when Reagan’s hit sailed long. Reagan tied it at 24 by blocking a hit by Abby Wilkins, but a soft kill from Slabach regained a 25-24 lead for Davie. Reagan, though, scored the final three points of the set. Davie’s largest deficit in the set was a skinny two.

The War Eagles dominated the second set, bolting to a 6-0 lead and rolling up an 18-7 cushion before winning 25-17. “We were doing everything right,” coach Amber Brandon said. “We looked really comfortable.”

The Raiders took the third set 25-22. Davie trailed 11-7 before rallying back to 14-all. Davie faced a 21-17 deficit before storming back again, with Everhardt’s stuff block tying it at 22. Reagan, however, seized the final three points.

Reagan squeezed out a 25-23 decision in the fourth set. After digging a 6-2 hole, Davie rallied to 8-8. After falling behind 12-9, Davie charged back to take leads of 19-15 and 20-17. Reagan responded with a 6-0 run, but a kill by Zoey Clark and a stuff block by Lauren Grooms cut Davie’s deficit to 23-22. Reagan scored two of the last three points to pull it out.

Although the War Eagles dropped three of four sets, they came agonizingly close to winning in three sets, winning in four sets or at the very least forcing a fifth set. The fine line between victory and defeat was insane.

“Every time we play Reagan it goes right down to the wire,” Brandon said. “I think we got some really bad breaks at some really crucial times. I told my kids: ‘Life’s not fair, the ball doesn’t always fall your way, and the call doesn’t always go your way.’

“Usually after a game, win or lose, we have lots of things that we critique, tweak and talk about. Carly (Pratapas, assistant coach) said: ‘I don’t have anything.’ We had a game plan. We followed it to a T. In the second set it worked really well. In the first, third and fourth it didn’t.”

While the season-ending defeat cut to the bone, it was a fantastic journey to 22-3. The War Eagles captured their first regular-season title since 2002, and they celebrated their first conference tournament title since 1987.

Two excellent teams met on Saturday evening. One had to lose.

“At the beginning of the season I asked the girls what they wanted their legacy to be,” Brandon said. “They’ve done things in the past four years that people hadn’t dreamed about for Davie volleyball.”

In the teary-eyed aftermath, Brandon watched an exceptional group of seniors walk off the court for the last time. One was an extraordinary setter, Grooms, who started four years and directed Davie to 80 wins against 25 losses as Davie went 17-8, 19-8, 23-5 and 22-3. Over the 2017-18 seasons, Davie went 2-6 against Reagan and 43-2 against everybody else.

“In my opinion, Lauren is hands down the best player in the conference,” Brandon said of the Coker College (Hartsville, S.C.) commitment. “I don’t think it’s even close. Our team was super undersized. We never passed the eye test. Lauren has the great ability to make an average hitter look like a superstar. For the past four years, she has been the heart of soul of this team.”

The other four seniors – libero Morgan Flores, outside hitter Slabach, middle hitter Wilkins and libero Cara Terry – were all cornerstone-type players. Flores is headed to Appalachian State to play for the Mountaineers.

Brandon said of Flores: “Morgan has the heart of a kid who absolutely loves the game. She plays with so much fire and energy. Going into App, I think she’s kind of the underdog, but I think she has a chance to change that program just like she changed this one.”

On Slabach: “Emma is the definition of an athlete. You put a ball in her hands and she figures out how to be good at it and how to make plays. She’s a leader. She’ll ask her teammates to do something, but she doesn’t ask her teammates to do something that she’s not willing to do.”

On Wilkins: “In the second half of the season she turned it on. Since she was a freshman, we’ve talked about the potential Abby has. She would do things and you’d go, ‘Wow.’ In the second half of the season she showed how phenomenal she can be.”

On Terry: “Cara has always done a great job of being a team player. Cara is a phenomenal DS (defensive specialist). I think anywhere else in our conference she would be their starting libero, too. To me that’s been the secret to our season, having Morgan setting across the court, Cara setting down the line and we have frustrated some really good hitters by having that setup. Cara is one of the most mature, level-headed players I’ve ever coached.”