LOUISBURG SENIOR SPIKE STAR KRISTEN HOUSE
LOUISBURG -- Volleyball is so strong in Franklin County that, even when Louisburg and Bunn are undergoing what could best be described as rebuilding years, both clubs are still right in the mix for one of the top spots in the Class 2-A Northern Carolina Conference.
Through the first round of head-to-head matches in the league, South Granville held a slim one-match cushion over Louisburg -- with Bunn not far behind.
Louisburg needed a victory over BHS last Thursday to remain within striking distance of South Granville -- and that's exactly what the Lady Warriors got as part of an impressive performance.
LHS also finished off a regular season sweep of Bunn with a 25-18, 25-16 and 25-15 triumph over the Ladycats at the historic LHS Gymnasium, which was filled with plenty of people and energy for the Franklin County showdown.
Even with the loss, Bunn is still holding down a third-place position in the conference, which would be good enough to earn a playoff berth.
That would be a legitimate accomplishment for a young team that is loaded with sophomores and juniors on the varsity level.
Louisburg has a more experienced club than BHS at this stage, but that assessment is a bit deceiving because several of the Lady Warriors' seniors are undertaking their most substantial career minutes for the varsity club.
One of those performers is Abby Nelms, who has settled in at middle hitter and delivered one of her best-ever outings last Thursday with seven kills, seven aces and three blocks.
That was more than enough offensive support to complement senior star Kristen House, who sent down 14 kills -- several at the most opportune occasions.
Sophomore Mallori Darnell and senior Taylor Whitley were both sharp for the Ladycats with nine kills apiece.
The first set was tight, with Louisburg clinging to a 22-18 advantage before Nelms came through with three kills in a row to push the Lady Warriors ahead.
Bunn used an early push in the second set to lead 8-4 after a kill from Darnell, along with a nice double block for a clean point.
Three kills from Whitley helped Bunn maintain its pace at 14-11, but Louisburg earned a sideout after a House blast, and Nelms stepped to the service line.
By the time Nelms was finally knocked off the stripe, she had turned the match in the Lady Warriors' favor for good with eight consecutive service points, five of which were delivered on aces (including three in a row at one stage).
Louisburg's margin was 21-14 after a House kill, and another Power-House blast put the Lady Warriors on the cusp of the set at 23-15.
Louisburg then turned to outside hitter Taylor Leonard for a pair of kills that wrapped up the set, and the Lady Warriors held a 2-0 advantage over the Ladycats.
Bunn needed a quality start in the third set to stay afloat, but it wasn't meant to be after Nelms accepted service with her club already ahead 2-1.
Just like in the second set, Nelms offered a prolonged service stint that featured eight straight points, with House and Leonard both coming through with key kills to continue the Lady Warriors' surge.
Darnell eventually stopped Nelms' run with a kill, but the damage had already been done with the Lady Warriors in charge for good in the third set at 10-2.