Future bright for Vikings volleyball
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, November 7, 2019
Entering Tuesday nights road contest with Chapel Hill the D.H. Conley volleyball team knew it had one main objective, slow down Tigers 6-4 outside hitter Kayla Merkler. Chapel Hill rallied from a 2-0 deficit to overcome the defending east champs, downing Conley 3-2.
"We knew coming into the Chapel Hill match we had to have blockers," DHC head coach Jennifer Gillikin said. "Our girls really stepped up. We had girls that are 5-7 blocking the 6-3, 6-4 giant over there."
Merkler entered the 3-A East Regional final with a team high 377 kills on the season, making her to focal point for the Conley defense.
If DHC recognized Merkler had the chance for a kill it was up to Vikings players such as Sara Dees, Maddy May and Alexis Desoto to time their jumps correctly to earn the block.
"Our front row players went up hard for every single block, we had a ton of blocks tonight," Gillikin said. "Our back row passers were scrambling to get those balls and get them up. I'm very pleased with our effort."
Those back row players, like Caroline Dobson, Savanna Hardee and Olivia Hunt, continually found themselves in the line of fire, but were unintimidated by the speed of Merkler's kills.
The loss was final game for five Conley seniors, Maura Wynn, Savanna Hardee, Desoto, Bailey Everett and Hunt.
"Those girls are my family," Gillikin said. "They've become a part of me and a part of my family. I couldn't be more proud of everything they've accomplished."
While the production of regular starters like Desoto and Hunt will be missed, the Vikings wil return the vast majority of their roster, including standout freshman outside hitter Kylah Silver. Silver recorded nine blocks and seven kills in the regional final.
It's been no secret that DHC has prided itself on the talent of its outside players, and Silver looks to be the next one to continue that tradition. Also returning will be setter Olivia Lefever, who also had a strong season overall, add in other names such as Dees, May and Ella Philpot, and Conley looks loaded to make another run next season.
"We have a strong Conley tradition," Gilikin said. "We've been rolling for several years now and that's our expectation. We'll get working soon and be back and ready for the 2020 season."
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.