Prep Volleyball: Carson 3, South Rowan 0
By Mike London
LANDIS — Carson’s volleyball team swept South Rowan 25-13, 25-22, 25-19 at the South gym on Thursday.
The Cougars are 11-1 and 2-0 in the NPC, but they didn’t feel like celebrating.
Aimee Cloninger, one of the team’s top hitters, is likely lost for the year with a knee injury.
“We just found out for sure on Wednesday,” Carson coach Kelan Rogers said. “Aimee hurt it back in June and has been trying to play through some pain, but the knee keeps swelling. I know it breaks her heart.”
Carson’s attack falls more now on the shoulders of Michaela White and Allison Blackwell, and they teamed to dominate the Raiders. They got help in the kills department from Sidney Grkman, Jordan Whitley and Madison Weast.
“We talked about not having Aimee today,” Blackwell said. “We all have to step up some and some of the young girls have to step up a lot more. But you can’t over-analyze it. You still have to go out there and play.”
South (7-3, 1-3) rolled through its non-conference schedule, but the going has been tougher in the NPC. The Raiders won against West Rowan but lost to North Iredell, West Iredell and Carson, the league’s top trio.
Whether South can get the league’s fourth playoff spot is going to rest on whether it can handle Statesville and East Rowan.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Rogers and the Cougars weren’t very pleased with their effort, but South coach Jan Dowling thought the Cougars looked good.
“They’re just so big, and height isn’t something you can control,” she said. “Most of those girls play junior volleyball nine months a year now, and when they’re bigger than you and more experienced than you, it’s pretty hard to compete with them. To beat that team we would have to out-heart them and out-hustle them and out-desire them, and we didn’t do a very good job of that today.”
White, the 2010 county player of the year as a freshman, controlled the opening game with lots of finesse and occasional power.
“She’s got about the best hands I’ve ever seen, and she’s a tough, 6-foot-1 hitter when she swings,” Dowling said. “She made some cut shots today (wrist-snapping slices around blockers) that a girl doesn’t make unless she’s been playing since she was 8 years old. She’s a tremendous player.”
South made a serious effort to get back into the match in Game 2, with Tiffany Brooks and Lynsey Corriher battling at the net, and Emma Pope providing spirited sets and digs. South led 20-18 before White scored on a soft dink and a hard kill to tie it. Carson pushed to a 22-20 lead on a service ace by Angela Talerico and wrapped it up when White set up Blackwell for her fourth kill of the game.
Dowling praised Pope’s effort.
“If everyone played as hard as her we’d never lose,” she said.
Dowling also was impressed by Blackwell, Carson’s middle hitter.
“Digging, blocking, hitting or serving, Blackwell goes hard every single play,” she said. “She’s not that tall for a middle, but she never takes a play off. That’s the difference between a good player and a great one.”
Laura Vaughn had two aces for Carson in Game 3. Trailing 24-15, South tried hard to extend the match, and Kelsey Samples served the Raiders back to 24-19. On match point, South’s Mackenzie Reid made a dive for a dazzling dig to deny White, but White punched the air after her next kill attempt drilled the floor to end the match.
“I was happy we got a win, but we’re not playing to our potential, White said. “At the end, I was just trying to get everyone excited.”
Rogers said that’s his primary goal also. He’s not elated with 11-1 because he believes the Cougars could be 12-0 right now.
“I still don’t think we’re playing hard enough and we don’t have enough emotion,” he said. “The last couple of weeks all we’ve done is play just well enough to win, and that’s not nearly good enough. We’ve got a lot of things to fix.”