Teams in this post:

Central dethrones West for CCC volleyball title

Central Davidson players, (clockwise from top) Melissa McMath, Taylor Shoaf, Kamber Skeen, Alyson Warfford McKenzie Burkhart and Kassie Miller, celebrate after defeating West Davidson to win the Central Carolina Conference volleyball championship Thursday night at Central. (Photo by Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch)

George H.W. Bush was president the last time West Davidson failed to win a conference volleyball championship and none of the Central Davidson players who took to the court Thursday night had even been born.

The enormity of it all brought Central coach Melissa Skeen to tears.

That’s because Skeen’s girls beat West 30-32, 26-24, 25-17, 25-18 to win the Central Carolina Conference championship, ending the Green Dragons’ streak of 19 consecutive years winning or sharing a conference title.

“It’s amazing,” Skeen said. “It’s amazing. I’m going to cry. I can’t even talk. I don’t know what to say.”

West’s own amazing run began in 1993 and stretched across several conference realignments.

“It’s a big boost. We’ve been working so hard,” Skeen said as she wiped away more tears, “since these seniors have been in the sixth grade. We’ve been working for this. And then winning on senior night. It’s amazing.”

Central, 13-5 overall, finished the regular season with a 9-1 conference record. West is now 13-9 overall and 8-2 in the CCC.

Outside hitters Taylor Shoaf and Melissa McMath, who had a whopping 24 kills along with 25 digs, cast a dominating presence at the net and even more so when West hitter Hannah Green was sidelined in the first set with a knee injury. Shoaf had eight kills and six blocks. They got plenty of support from libero McKenzie Burkhart, who had 29 digs, and setter Kamber Skeen, who had 43 assists and 19 digs, as well as Kassie Miller (seven kills) and Alex Halbach (five kills, five digs).

“They did a good job,” coach Skeen said. “I’m glad Kamber kept her head in it tonight.”

The Spartans will host the CCC tournament next week but they already have the CCC’s No. 1 seed in the 2-A state playoffs, which begin Sat., Oct. 20.

“Yes, yes we are,” coach Skeen said. “I’m overwhelmed, overwhelmed.”

Her players were just as emotional.

“It feels amazing,” Shoaf said. “It feels good to beat West and get our year on the title … banner.”

The Spartans fell to West in four sets the last time they played and knew they had their work cut out for them.

“We all worked as a team, that’s for sure,” Burkhart said. “We stood on chairs in practice, hitting the ball because we knew West was going to bring it. We had to get our hands up and hit. That’s what we did.”

The Dragons tried to compensate for Green’s absence by having setter Rachel Hamrick, who had 33 assists, feed the ball to hitters Maggie Hughes and Chloe Newsome. Hughes had 16 kills and Newsome had 11 but it wasn’t quite enough.

“Oh gosh, it would have been 20 if we had this one,” said West assistant coach Michael Green, whose team came within a point of taking the first two sets. “I thought our girls came back and played hard.”

The Dragons were in good position when Hannah Green soared for a kill to give her team an 18-12 lead in the first set. But seconds later, she was on the court in pain and after a few minutes was carried to the bench by coach Green, her father.

But the Dragons didn’t go down without a fight.

Central surged ahead on a 9-2 run, only to see the Dragons storm right back. Then the Spartans survived four set points and had a set point of their own at 29-28 when Lewis blocked a Newsome hit. But the Dragons finally prevailed 32-30 when McMath’s attempted block sailed out of bounds.

The second set was tight all the way, with the teams never separated by more than three points. West had set point at 24-23 on a line drive kill by Carley Leonard.

Then the Spartans turned to McMath whose windups to hit were often accompanied by a “yeeeahhh” from an exuberant Central fan. McMath pounded one in to tie the game and then gave her team set point with another kill. Kamber Skeen then put it away with a block.

Central took the lead for good in the third set at 10-9 on a Rachel Lewis tip. West was still within 17-14 after a kill by Madison Hunt. But the Spartans, sparked by Burkhart’s diving dig winner, began to pull away. A dig by the Dragons hit the rafters to give them set point at 24-17. Hughes tipped one in to save a set point but a two-handed tip by Shoaf ended things.

“We worked hard on our hitting and blocking,” Shoaf said. “We knew they had some good hitters. We had to get our hands up and swing away.”

The momentum swung back to West temporarily in the fourth set as the Dragons surged to a 5-1 lead. But the Spartans picked up some steam and grabbed the lead with a 6-1 run. A thunderous block by Shoaf on Newsome made it 10-7 and triggered a West timeout.

But the Spartans quickly stretched their lead to nine and never led by less than five the rest of the way.

Barring an upset by a lower-seeded team in the CCC tournament, West will still have the No. 2 seed for the state playoffs and have a home playoff match in the first round.

“Hopefully, we’ll get Hannah back for the conference tournament and maybe go in the states a little ways,” coach Green said.

Central and West both have byes into the semifinals of the CCC tournament and will play again on Tuesday.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or