Volleyball runs into juggernaut in playoffs

Published 10:10 am Thursday, January 21, 2021

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Davie’s volleyball team was ran over by a freight train in the first round of the 4-A playoffs.

The Green Hope Falcons, who ended Davie’s season in Cary on Jan. 12, own a 29-match winning streak, having not lost since Sept. 14, 2020. Their record from 2016 through 2021 is 126-6. (That’s not a misprint.)

They went 28-1 in 2016, 31-2 in 2017, 28-1 in 2018 and 27-2 in 2019. They have walked off with the state championship trophy  four years running.

When the Falcons hosted Davie, it was business as usual. The 25-14, 25-11, 25-12 decision was unbeaten Green Hope’s ninth shutout in 12 matches, the other three going four sets. In the second round, Green Hope took down Green Level.

“They’ve been absolutely phenomenal,” Davie coach Amber Brandon said. “A couple of years ago, I went to see Green Hope play at North Iredell. I was impressed with their warmups. They were unbelievably efficient and all on the same page.”

One of Green Hope’s stars – 6-1 senior Sophia Kruczko – has Davie ties.

“I think they’re a little bit down compared to where they’ve been the last four years, but they have a 6-2 right side who actually grew up in Davie County,” Brandon said. “She was really, really good – big size, big block and could swing anywhere across the front row. They have two outsides with heavy arms. They played at a speed that we haven’t seen this year.”

Brandon said goodbye to four seniors, including three three-year varsity players (McKenzie Stakely, Dyllan Everhardt and Elizabeth Tilley). The sensational libero, Stakely, earned conference defensive player of the year and will play in college at Grace College in Indiana.

“She’s so fast defensively,” Brandon said. “She was the vocal leader on and off the court. She was the speaking captain on the floor. Her speed is what sets McKenzie apart from any other (defensive specialist) libero that I have seen play all year. There are some balls that she can go get – balls that kids have shanked or balls that have come off the block – that 99 out of 100 kids don’t pick up. She just has such a quick first step. She worked really hard in the offseason on her serve-receive game, and she’s a kid that does the little things right. She has a trainer and works out. She understands the importance of strength and conditioning. She’s very, very disciplined. She makes corrections. She’s super coachable.
She’s a sponge. You give her information, she’s going to soak it up. Her digs would change the flow of a match. Even at Green Hope, she was everywhere. She dug some balls that those kids probably hadn’t seen come up all year.”

After having her junior season short-circuited by a broken ankle, Everhardt bounced back for a strong senior year.

“When we looked at possible lineups before the season, we knew someone was going to have move from middle and play out of position,” Brandon said. “It made the most sense to move Dyllan as the senior. She’s had more game experience and she should be more flexible. And she did a phenomenal job of that. We completely changed her role for what it’d been the last three years. To see her step into that position and get put outside of her comfort zone and adapt to it was kind of special to finish out her high school career.”

Tilley was always a key as a setter.

“This year she came in really positive and that (reflected) the maturity level of this senior class,” Brandon said. “This summer the seniors chose We Before Me as a hashtag. All four of them had sat at some point, had to focus on putting the team above themselves and waited for their moment. In a couple of tough games down the stretch, Tilley stepped in as the emotional, mental leader. She brought energy and intensity.”

Kaylee Krause was a two-year varsity player who epitomized Davie’s selfless group.

“She’s just a great kid, a great student-athlete,” she said. “She comes from a good family and she’s been an important role player and a positive contributor to the group. Kaylee is level-headed, steady, mature kid, and I think that was so important for us to have this year.”

Notes: Davie was missing three players at Green Hope, including two quarantined players and injured Aimee Loj. … Kruczko lived in Davie County when she was young. “She went to elementary with these kids, and then I think they moved to Wilmington and then moved to Raleigh,” Brandon said. … Brandon said the 2020-21 team chemistry was extraordinary. “This group has been fun because they’re all really good friends,” she said. “They love to have fun. All I had to do was talk Xs and Os of volleyball because they were being leaders and doing all the other things right.” … Davie finished 9-4, giving Brandon six winning seasons in six years and pushing her career record to a flashy 106-39. … The success is showing no signs of slowing down. The varsity had seven juniors and three sophomores, and the JV went 10-0.