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After battling with Lafayette for two difficult sets, Grafton cruised to victory during the final set to claim a 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 victory during the Conference 18 semifinals Wednesday.
The Clippers and Rams were locked at 7-7 through the first 14 points of the match before Grafton put together a 4-0 run to extend its lead to 11-7.
Trailing 13-9, Lafayette responded with a 4-0 run of its own to pull within one point of the Clippers. Back-to-back points by Grafton gave way to a critical 3-0 run that extended its lead to 18-13.
Grafton led by as much as five points during the first set including a 21-16 lead, the Clippers saw Lafayette battle back and pull within one point. Lafayette completed the comeback when the opening set became tied at 22-22.
A cross-court kill by Grafton's Sophia Beaudoin capped off a set-clinching 3-0 run that handed the Clippers a 1-0 lead.
The second set was more of the same as Lafayette and Grafton continued to battle back and forth.
With the second set tied 17-17, Grafton put together a 4-0 run to pull ahead 21-17. The Clippers never looked back, winning four of the final seven points to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
"We played great the first two sets," said Lafayette Assistant Coach Lee Thornhill, who filled in for Coach Keith Nowadly during the playoffs. "Unfortunately we missed four serves in the first set and had three reception errors and we ended up losing by three points. When the pressure is on, you can't make mistakes. They kept the pressure on and we folded."
The third set was a far cry from the first two as mental errors and a lack of communication handed Grafton easy points. The Clippers took advantage, hammering home point after point until the set was clinched 25-14.
Grafton Coach Karissa Cumberbatch said she was mostly pleased with Grafton's performance against Lafayette.
"Our girls were excited to be here and they're excited for tomorrow," she said. "The first two sets a couple of our players weren't in tune with everybody else ... but they were all playing well in that last set."
The Clippers (18-6) will travel to play Bay Rivers District champions Jamestown in the Conference 18 championship game Thursday and will automatically advance to the Region 4A East tournament.
Meanwhile, Lafayette (12-10) sees its season come to a close before reaching regional play.
Grafton def. Lafayette 25-22, 25-20, 25-14
Grafton: Sophia Beaudoin (19 digs, 6 kills), Rachel Blitt (11 kills, 5 blocks, 4 digs, 1 ace), Haley Sutton (11 digs)
Lafayette: Abby Oren (15 kills, 12 digs), Julia Howard (23 assists, 8 digs)
Tabb Wins Conference 27 Championship
Don't let the 7-14 record fool you, Tabb's volleyball team is in the middle of a historic run for the program.
On Wednesday, Tabb cruised past Lakeland on the road 25-13, 25-7, 25-10 in the Conference 27 championship match. With the win, Tabb will host a first-round game during Monday's Group 3A East tournament.
"It feels amazing we are going to be able to host on Monday," said Tabb Coach Mike Honeycutt. "It's great for Tabb and it's great for the girls to be able to play a home regional match for what I think is the first time in program history."
Similar to Tabb's (7-14) prior games in the Conference 27 tournament, the Tigers cruised to victory in straight sets.
Led by Abigail Carney's 17 assists, five kills, four digs and three aces, the Tigers were never challenged by Lakeland during the victory.
"Our girls came out really strong and I credit that to the fact they came in focused and wanted to bring home a conference championship for Tabb," Honeycutt said. "They had a lot to play for tonight."
Tabb def. Lakeland 25-13, 25-7, 25-10
Tabb: Abigail Carney (3 aces, 5 kills, 17 assists, 4 digs), Madison Dadez (5 aces, 10 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs), Audre'ana Ellis (2 aces, 4 kills)
Jamestown Routs Smithfield to Reach Conference Finals
Jamestown had no trouble taking down Smithfied at home during Wednesday's Conference 18 semifinal match.
Led by Maria Esch's 14 kills, nine digs and two aces, Jamestown routed the Packers 25-14, 25-4, 25-15.
The Eagles topped Smithfield by 11 points in the first set before blowing the second set open by a commanding 21 points.
Jamestown clinched the match victory with a 10-point victory in the final set. The win means Jamestown will automatically advance to the Group 4A East tournament.
Before that, Jamestown (20-3) will host Grafton in the Conference 18 championship match Thursday.
Jamestown def. Smithfield 25-14, 25-4, 25-15
Jamestown: Maria Esch (14 kills, 9 digs, 2 aces), Marissa Campbell (10 kills, 7 digs, 5 aces), Maggie Viniard (22 assists, 2 aces)
Warhill Whips Park View in Conference 25 Semis
Warhill's volleyball team hit the road to take on Park View in the Conference 25 semifinal round Wednesday.
The Lions cruised to victory over Park View 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 and have automatically qualified for the Group 3A East tournament.
Before playing in the regional tournament, Warhill will once again hit the road, this time to play Poquoson in the Conference 25 championship match. The Lions (15-5) and Islanders will square off Thursday.
Individual statistics were not reported for this match.
Warhill def. Park View 25-13, 25-16, 25-16