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Cougars ousted in fourth round

BREVARD - After winning the 2021 state volleyball championship, Southwestern Randolph has made deep runs in an attempt to return to the NCHSAA finals. On both occasions, they ran into a talented team attempting to reach the state finals for the first time ever.


The third-seeded Cougars were eliminated from the West Regional for a second straight year by the Brevard Blue Devils, falling Saturday in fourth-round play by the scores of 23-25, 25-15, 25-14, 25-23. 


The loss snapped a 14-game winning streak for the Cougars, who had defeated Lincoln Charter (3-0), Mount Pleasant (3-0) and West Stanly (3-1) to reach the regional semifinals. SWR finishes the season 25-5 with Piedmont Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships on its resume.


“We knew Brevard would be big and strong and we did a very good job the first set following our plan,” veteran coach Darby Kennedy said. “We lost focus in the second and the third sets and made a lot of errors. The fourth set we came out strong, but made unfortunate errors at unfortunate times. These girls worked really hard today. This was a loud atmosphere over here and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”


Behind Madelyn Smith, Coley Shiflet, Gracie Hodgin, Riley Key and Raegan Leroy among others, the Cougars grabbed a 1-0 lead with a thrilling win. Then the physicality of the Blue Devils took over.


“Brevard ran a quick offense and with their size and speed, it was hard for us to acclimate to that,” Kennedy said. “They are the best team we have seen all season at the net.”


Still, the Cougars battled to the end.


“They faced giants all year long and they have been undersized but they fight through,” Kennedy said.