BCC advances to national volleyball tournament

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

LOUISBURG—Stephanie Beach, the Brunswick Community College volleyball coach, stood on the volleyball court at Louisburg Community College and quickly recited an amazing list of accomplishments.

“I can’t believe I would have had a tournament MVP, an all-region player of the year, a coach of the year, a tournament championship and a conference championship all in the first year,” she said. “I can’t imagine it.”

But Beach’s Dolphins completed an astounding first season of conference volleyball—a season without a gym on campus—by beating Louisburg College 19-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-11 Saturday evening to win the tournament championship. The victory also qualified the Dolphins (10-5) for the NJCAA Division II national tournament Nov. 20-22 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

“Realistically, at the beginning of the year, I was just hoping that we would have a winning record and we wouldn’t be last,” Beach said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

But after BCC, in its first home match Sept. 10 at West Brunswick High School beat Lenoir Community College, “that’s when I realized that we had good potential to make a run for the conference title,” she said.

“And the (Lenoir) coach told me we were going to be all right in the conference, and that gave me a little more confidence going into the rest of the season.”

The team’s skills and unity also became more apparent throughout the season.

“This team has really meshed,” Beach said. “They have really jelled. Not only do we have great talent but we have great teammates. I have never coached a team or been part of team that are better teammates than these girls.

“They know each other so well. They know each other’s quirks and what they’re good at, what they’re bad at. They’ve been able to pick each other up.”

“I never thought it would happen,” said Meg Phillips, a transfer from Appalachian State University named Region X volleyball player of the year. “I came here from another school and it was just something to do for fun. I never really thought we would be as good as are. We’re all strong players. We just put it together.”

But Phillips, a 6-foot, 1-inch middle hitter, said “after the second or third match” she began to believe this team could do well in the conference.”

What helped that unity was that Phillips was a teammate with Melissa Orth and Heather Nelson at West Brunswick High School.

“We all started to mesh really well,” Phillips said. “We all hang out outside of school. We’re all really good friends.”

For Hannah Ennis, a 5-8 outside hitter from Triton High School in Dunn, being named the tourney MVP was not in her thoughts.

“I just go out to play for fun—and win,” she said.

As for qualifying for the national tournament, “I didn’t even think we were going to do that,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to be good this year.”

What made the team good, she said, was “teamwork—just coming together.

“We’ve all played volleyball at good high school (programs), so just coming together as one” was the difference.

Jordan Clear, West’s Female Athlete of the Year for the 2007-08 school year, was BCC’s only other all-conference selection.

“Nobody expected to get any awards because it was our first year,” she said.

The other Dolphins honored were Meghan Goldstein and Kelly Garry, both named to the all-tournament team.

In the championship match Saturday, BCC was sluggish in the first game, falling behind 9-5 and 16-8 in the eventual 25-19 loss. But the Dolphins and the Lady Canes played the next two games close throughout.

In the second game, a kill by Phillips put BCC up 15-13. That began a 4-0 run toward an 18-13 lead. BCC gained a point in the run after a dig by Orth led to a tap over the net by Philips. Kills by Orth and Clear gave BCC a 19-14 lead. Mistakes by Louisburg and a slam by Jasmine Williams put BCC ahead 22-18. An error by Louisburg, a cross-court kill by Orth and another error by Louisburg gave BCC its winning points.

The third game was just as close. With the score 17-17, BCC gained a sideout and got another point on a block by Williams. The next point was the longest and most exciting rally of the match. A dig by Garry helped keep alive the rally before BCC got the point on an out-of-bounds hit.

After another Louisburg error, Ennis hit a service winner and Williams got a kill, putting BCC ahead 23-17.

The Lady Canes rallied, cutting the lead to 24-22, but BCC won the game on a kill by Orth.

The two losses deflated Louisburg, and it fell behind 11-1 in the fourth game. BCC had no trouble winning the game and the tournament championship.

Like Ennis, Clear said teamwork was the key to the Dolphins’ success.

“We’re all good friends outside of volleyball, so that helps, also,” she said. “We brought our friendship to the court.”

Clear said she didn’t expect a winning season “because I didn’t know what the other schools (in the region) are like.

“This was our first year, and we had a lot of people from different schools.”

BCC’s nine players came for six schools, but now they’re going as one team to the national tourney.

“It’s unbelievable,” Clear said. “We never expected to go this far.”

MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at sports@brunswickbeacon.com.