Published: Aug 27, 2012 12:36 PM
Modified: Aug 27, 2012 12:37 PM
Losing to Wilmington Hoggard last weekend might have been one of the best things that could happen to the Chapel Hill High School volleyball team.
The Tigers had easily dusted off Hoggard just a couple of weeks before when they were on a team trip to Wilmington. Their success during their annual bonding mission at the coast may have made them think themselves unbeatable.
Now, they’ve learned what veteran Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris says: “Everyone might know you have the best team, but you still have to show up and play.”
Hoggard came to Chapel Hill last weekend and won the Tigers’ own Chapel ill Invitational Tournament, taking the title with a five-set victory over the hosts.
Up until that final, Chapel Hill virtually had been on cruise control. The Tigers went 3-0 in the CHIT pool play, and their most notable match had been a 4-set win over a good Carrboro team.
“Hoggard played really well, and our girls were just standing around,” Norris said. “We have a lot of hitting power on our team, but if you don’t pass so that you can set, you might as well not have any hitters. … And we made some serving errors at critical times.”
Chapel Hill helped sooth the sting from that loss to Hoggard by turning in a dominating performance last Wednesday against East Chapel Hill. The Tigers won 22-15, 25-13, 22-25, 25-12 on their home court.
“Coming into this one, we knew it was big, because it’s East,” Norris said.
This time, the Tigers didn’t take anything for granted.
They jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first game and didn’t look back. The one blip came in the third game, when East Chapel Hill outside hitter Annie Carter produced a couple of kill shots early on and helped the Wildcats take a lead at 10-7.
“Once we settled down and got into a rhythm in that third game we played great,” East coach Michelle Wood said. “I have four sophomores on the court most of the time – Annie Carter, Sarena Seelback, Jazmine Daye, Danielle Amer. We do have some playing talent; it’s just young.”
East went on to win that third game, but then CHHS roared back with Catherine Romaine serving for nine straight points and a 12-3 lead in the fourth.
The Wildcats never again got closer than 17-11 in the final set. Megan Blunden, already committed to play next year at the University of Delaware, put an exclamation point on the victory with a game-winning spike.
Blunden and Romaine, a junior, are both 6-3, giving Chapel Hill a formidable pair of hitters up front. Senior Maggie Evans and ninth-grader Katherine Esterly are both 6-1, and Perry Ramsey, a junior transfer from East, is 6-0.
“We probably have the most height that we have ever had on a team. They are taller than my basketball team,” Norris noted. “They have nice height, they’re good athletes, move well and jump well.”
In other words, Chapel Hill could be a contender for a conference title this year.
That’s saying more than is superficially apparent.
For years, Chapel Hill has labored in, first, in the PAC-6 4A Conference under the shadow of Riverside (with future Olympian Megan Hodge) and then Roxboro Person, both of which made great runs in the state tournament, and then state champion Cardinal Gibbons in the Carolina 3A Conference. More than once, Chapel Hill’s only losses have been to a state finalist conference opponent.
“I definitely feel like this is the year that we can make a run as long as we all keep working together,” Blunden said. “Right now, we’re still practicing and getting to know each other. We just have to learn to play like a team, and we can definitely do well.”