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Prep volleyball: Carson 3, Davie County 1

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
MOCKSVILLE ó Carsonís volleyball team improved to 6-1 on Monday in the Davie County gym, although the Cougars did it the hard way.
A 25-17, 18-25, 25-23, 25-23 victory left fans out of breath and Carson coach Kelan Rogers looking more puzzled than pleased.
ěWe were very fortunate to win,î he said. ěThere were spurts when we were not good at all, and Davieís girls were all over the court. They were the more fired-up team. They outplayed us most of the match.î
Rogers is a demanding perfectionist, but itís true that Carson did have an ugly stretch that set volleyball back a few centuries.
Davie closed Game 2 by outscoring the Cougars 11-2, and the Cougars were down 7-2 in Game 3 before they decided to turn things around.
ěCoach told us we really didnít want to win,î veteran Aimee Cloninger said. ěWe had to prove him wrong.î
When you win on the road at less than your best against an inspired opponent, youíre pretty good. Davie (4-2) has lost twice to Carson, evidence that the Cougars are headed for another outstanding year.
ěWe do have some ability, but we need consistency,î Rogers said. ěWe really should be decent. We should be better than we showed today.î
Rogers has coached the countyís best team each of the past two seasons, directing the Cougars to 22 wins in 2009 and a school-record 23 in 2010.
Last yearís team, as stout as it was, was predictable. Setter Michaela White set for Allison Blackwell, a force in the middle, 75 percent of the time, and the results were usually good.
This season the Cougars are harder to predict and defend. Rogers is playing two setters, with senior Morgan Griffin, injured early last year, now in a key role. Griffin frees up the multi-dimensional White, last seasonís county player of the year as a freshman, to attack as an agile, long-armed hitter.
White missed a lot of open spaces on Monday, but she still had 10 assists and 10 kills. Morgan had nine assists.
Blackwell had nine kills and five blocks. Cloninger had nine kills and three blocks. Jordan Whitley and Sidney Grkman combined for another 10 kills, some of them at critical times.
Libero Angela Talerico anchored the defense with 12 digs. In other words, the Cougars, even on a day of struggles, came at Davie from a lot of different directions.
ěWith Michaela hitting, thatís another person to look for, and it makes us a different team,î Blackwell said. ěWeíre adjusting. Weíll get there. Weíre just not quite where we want to be yet.î
Davie hung in Game 1 until back-to-back, wicked aces by an impressively elevated Cloninger gave Carson some separation at 16-12.
Talerico ran off six straight points at the service line, and a nice dink by Morgan made it 23-14. Griffin set up White for a 24-14 lead. A strong kill by Whitley closed the game.
Carson led 16-14 in Game 2 when it temporarily fell apart.
ěMentally, we got down,î Blackwell explained. ěWe all had moments. We hit balls out, and then we didnít shake it off. We didnít stay positive.î
When Davieís Clara MacDonnell caught fire and served eight straight points, the War Eagles evened the match.
ěOur minds just werenít working,î Cloninger said with a perplexed sigh.
Carson appeared in serious danger of losing Game 3 ó and maybe the match ó when it fell behind 23-19 on a kill by Davieís Anne-Marie Harvey. But Davie missed a serve to break momentum and Carson reeled off five straight points ó the dayís five biggest.
Griffin set up Blackwell for the kill that cut the gap to 23-21, and Cloningerís powerful serve paid off again. She had two aces, then made a dig that led to a point by Griffin.
Griffin set up Grkman for the game-ender. The southpawís left-to-right kill sliced through the front rank, caromed off two War Eagles and found the floor.
Winning Game 3 took the pressure off, and Carson sealed Game 4 with a service run by Griffin that pushed a precarious 20-19 edge to 23-19.
The Cougars owned the game and the match after Griffin set up White, and she executed efficiently.
ěWe pulled it through when we had to, and thatís a good thing,î Rogers said. ěI think the girls knew they could do it. Finally, they did it.î
n
NOTES: Carsonís loss was in five games to defending 2A champ Starmount after the Cougars led 2-0. … MacDonnell had 10 kills for DC, while Leslie Fulton had nine. … Carson is at Concord on Wednesday and opens NPC play vs. Statesville on Thursday.

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