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Rallying from a first-game loss, overcoming an injury to a captain and playing all season without any matches on campus, Brunswick Community College’s first-ever volleyball team made school history Sunday afternoon by winning a conference championship.
BCC beat Louisburg 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 at West Brunswick High School. The victory makes the Dolphins the No. 1 seed heading into the conference tournament Nov. 7-8 at Louisburg. The winner of that tourney qualifies for the NJCAA Division II national tournament Nov. 20-22 at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
“It was a goal we really didn’t set,” BCC coach Stephanie Beach said about the conference title. “We really didn’t know what we were going to be facing. We wanted a winning record. That was our goal as a first-year program. I don’t think anybody thought we were going to win our conference. I don’t think anybody thought we’d have the No. 1 seed going into the tournament.”
The odds were against BCC before the season began. The Dolphins do not have a home court—an on-campus gym won’t be ready until next year—and Beach had no idea how well her team would play against established programs.
“We kind of thought about it after our first couple of games that we played together,” she said. “We were beating some teams and we were like, ‘Wow, we can do this.’
“It’s a huge honor and they definitely deserved (the championship). I have never coached a team that deserved it more than they do. I have never been part of a team that deserved it more than they do.”
BCC (7-1 in the conference, 8-4 overall) started sluggishly against the Hurricanes, a team BCC had routed 25-7, 25-23, 25-16 Oct. 3.
“When we went to Louisburg,” Beach said, “they were not nearly this tough. They came out here a completely different Louisburg than I remember their being at their place.
“I told them (after the first game) they were going to have to pick up their intensity and pick up their enthusiasm because this team came to play.”
Louisburg took an 11-7 lead in the second game, and then the Dolphins’ Hannah Ennis hurt her chin while diving for a ball. The co-captain did not play the rest of the game.
“She’s definitely a key player,” Beach said. “When she went down, I was worried about our team dropping a lot in intensity and momentum. They were able to maintain it a little bit.”
The Dolphins took advantage of three straight Louisburg errors to cut the lead to 16-15. Meg Phillips then held serve for four straight points as BCC took a 19-16 lead.
With the score 21-21, BCC got a sideout when a Hurricane serve hit the net. With Jordan Clear serving, BCC got a point on a block by Jasmine Williams. A kill by Melissa Orth gave BCC a 24-21 lead. After two sideouts, BCC won the game on a kill by Williams.
With a big bandage on her chin, Ennis returned for the third game, and her kill gave BCC a 4-1 lead.
“When Hannah came back,” Beach said, “she was ready to play again, and that made the difference for the team. We were able to stay up and keep our momentum high.”
Again, BCC took advantage of Louisburg mistakes late in the game. Clear held serve as BCC scored three points off Hurricane errors and took a 23-18 lead. BCC won the game when Meghan Goldstein passed to Phillips for a kill.
BCC played its best game in the fourth game. With defensive specialist Kelly Garry making key returns, BCC built a lead of 20-12 before eventually winning 25-20.
“I believe they really wanted it,” Beach said about her team’s comeback. “They wanted this conference championship and they got it.”
Now the challenge is to keep the team in good form during a two-week layoff before the conference championship tournament. The team has five county players on it: Phillips, Orth, Clear, Goldstein and Heather Nelson. Besides Williams, Garry and Ennis, the other team member is Kelsie Binetti.
“It’s going to be very, very challenging to keep them focused,” Beach said about the layoff. “We’re going to be practicing every day. It’s going to be tough with Thanksgiving coming up. But they all want to go to Wisconsin. Nobody’s been there. So they want to go. That’s what they’re saying. ‘Let’s go. I’m going to get my coat on. Let’s go.’ ”
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.