Prep volleyball: Carson 3, South 0
By Mike London
LANDIS ó Carson’s volleyball team won for the first time ever against South Rowan on Tuesday in a congested, rowdy South gym, but this one was more about where the Cougars are headed than where they’ve been.
Carson hitters Jennifer Hough, Amber Ingraham, Breckin Settlemyer and Allison Blackwell ruled the net, hustling libero Sarah Marshall sparked the defense, and Marissa Sellers had a great day serving.
For the blue-clad Carson girls, nine of them seniors, there was satisfaction in a relatively easy 25-11, 25-17, 25-18 win over the school’s biggest rival in everything, but no somersaults or cartwheels were turned.
“Yeah, we were hungry for it and wanted it, and it does feel good to beat South, but we want to beat everybody,” senior Jennifer Hough said. “This is just one more marked off the list. Now it’s on to the next one.”
Carson volleyball has become quite a story because the Cougars (11-1, 4-1 NPC) have never had a team win so frequently in any sport and they’ve never made the state playoffs in volleyball.
South (8-4, 1-3) has owned the county’s elite program lately and is just one year removed from a 16-5 record, the finest in school history.
But this was Carson’s day. South never got it going.
“We didn’t show up,” said disappointed South senior Kayla Morrow. “I really think we have as much talent as anyone in the conference, but we’re not showing it on the court like we should be. It’s in us, but we’ve got to find it. We’ve got to walk the walk. Today, we didn’t.”
New Carson coach Kelan Rogers, who built a CCC dynasty at West Davidson, watched his team get off to a rocky start in Game 1.
“Both teams started slow,” he said. “It was like both teams were trying to see who could give the most points away. We responded and got it together faster than they did and came out on top. There were times it was very even, nip and tuck.”
Rogers wasn’t worried about the rivalry. He was on the same page as Hough.
“Really, this is just one more win and one more conference win,” Rogers said. “We want to win all of them, not just beat teams that are supposed to be our rivals.”
The broad white sheet on one of the back walls that silently screamed “Crush those Cougars” alluded to a serious rivalry, but Carson just had too many people scoring from too many places for South to keep pace.
In Game 2, Morrow had five kills, but that was offset by Taylor Whitley’s sets that led to four kills by Hough and three each by Ingraham, Settlemyer and Blackwell.
“We did start bad, but with that crowd today we were able to keep up our energy and intensity,” Ingraham said. “As the match went on, we were playing better and better.”
Hough is about 5-foot-4. Players her height are usually back-row specialists, but she leaps well enough to play at the net. She had two emotional kills in Game 3 as Carson built a lead and half the crowd, the half wearing orange and blue, got louder.
South fought back as close as 14-12, but a block by Settlemyer and a kill by Shanna Stewart turned momentum Carson’s way one last time.
A kill by Blackwell, a freshman, made it 20-16. Ingraham had a kill for 22-17. Then it was Blackwell again for 23-17, as Rogers punched the air. A kill by Ingraham gave the Cougars a 24-17 lead. Then the game and match ended when the Raiders missed a serve.
Morrow and Amber Waldroup led South in kills.
Morrow expects to give a verbal commitment to Lenoir-Rhyne on Monday.
“Morrow is special, but we didn’t gameplan anything for her,” Rogers said. “Right now we have to take care of what we can do and not worry about what other teams can do.”
South coach Jan Dowling said the Cougars are doing a lot of things right.
“Carson played a terrific match today,” she said. “I was impressed to see how well they played as a unit, not as individuals.”