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CHINA GROVE — Carson’s 21-25, 25-13, 27-25 and 25-21 volleyball victory against South Iredell on Thursday may have been the best match ever played in a Rowan County gym.
The third game of the 3A third-round matchup was even more epic than the rest of it. The longest rally all night came when quick-handed Michaela White and her teammates repeatedly staved off gamepoint at 23-24.
Cougars were yelling, trying to communicate above the frenzied crowd at the end of Game 3, as Tori Pruett served for a game that once had looked lost.
“Hannah (Elmore) was putting the ball down tonight, and I was telling (setter) Morgan Hester she had to get it to Hannah,” libero Laura Vaughn explained.
Elmore was feeling it.
“Laura told me it was coming to me, and I was screaming and I’m sure I was screaming pretty loud,” Elmore said.
Vaughn is a defensive whiz, a girl who can not only make the tough dig but turn it into a precise pass, and when the Vikings sent Pruett’s serve back, Vaughn did her job one more time.
She got the ball airborne to Hester, Hester’s calm set was perfect, and Elmore screamed even louder as she hammered a wicked kill that scorched down the line.
“Hannah time!” fans call those crushed kills, and Carson (32-0) was headed to Saturday’s West semifinal.
South Iredell (23-3) is young, but led by sophomore Julia Scoles’ 25 kills, 11 digs and four blocks, they took it to the Cougars, as the Vikings roared from 20-16 down to win the first game.
“They had some runs on us, and no one’s had runs on us all year,” Carson coach Kelan Rogers said. “I thought we played more timid than I expected, but a lot of that was that they were just hitting the ball so hard. They were the best team we’ve played this year.”
Carson got a lot from a lot of people. Michaela White had 22 kills. Madison Weast had 15. Elmore had 13.
“Carson is a team of seniors, and they just never let up,” SI coach Ashlyn Morris said. “Their setter is amazing, and their hitters are not only strong, they’re smart. We couldn’t afford any mistakes, but we made a few.”
White was blocked by Scoles once and answered with a fierce kill that caromed off the faces and bodies of three Vikings.
“When you get blocked, it makes you want the ball that much more,” White said.
Hester, a sophomore who stayed poised even when the Cougars appeared to be in trouble, had 35 assists.
The Cougars still might have lost had Pruett and freshman Elena Turnbull not come through at critical times. With Carson trailing 17-16 in the fourth game, Pruett produced back-to-back points, including a kill that snaked from left to right across the net before it found open space.Turnbull had the kill — off White’s set — that broke a 25-all tie in the third game.
Carson fans left relieved because other than a blitz by Weast and White that won Game 2 easily, there wasn’t much difference between the veteran Cougars and the young Vikings.
“But we never got shaken up,” Vaughn said. “Actually we’d practiced this situation. We were prepared for a night when we got down and had to come back.”

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