Croatan volleyball coach Lindsey Bach, right, leads her team to a 3A Coastal Conference regular season and conference tournament championship in the program’s first season at the 3A level. (Zack Nally photo)

OCEAN — The Croatan volleyball team took care of business in the 3A Coastal Conference tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.

After a bye in the first round, the Cougars (16-5 overall) shut out Richlands 3-0 in the second round on Tuesday and defeated West Carteret 3-1 in the final on Wednesday.

The victory over the Patriots (12-7) was Croatan’s fourth against its county rival this season. The Cougars won 3-2 in a nonconference match on Sept. 9, 3-1 in the first conference meeting on Sept. 28 and 3-0 on Oct. 14.

“It was another intense match,” Croatan coach Lindsey Bach said. “They were coming for blood, which we expected.”

The Cougars won the latest match 25-18, 25-23, 20-25, 25-23. The victory was the exclamation mark on the team’s regular season league championship. Croatan went 10-0 in conference play, only allowing a set loss in three matches.

That level of comfort against the rest of the Coastal made the idea of a tournament a bit repetitive for Bach, who did not have a conference tournament in the school’s old 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference.

“I think it’s more feasible for smaller conferences,” she said. “We never did it in the Coastal 8 because having eight teams made it difficult. I’m not a huge fan of conference tournaments, but it was better than having an open week right before the playoffs.”

She added, “It does get a little old. You’re ready to see different opponents. But I didn’t want to take the week off, so there’s pros and cons. Either way, we went after it.”

West defeated Dixon 3-0 in the second round to reach the final. The Patriots finished second in the conference with an 8-2 record.

Both teams reached the state playoffs, Croatan as the No. 4 seed and West as No. 16. The Patriots were slated to face No. 17 South Johnston (16-8 overall) in the first round on Saturday. The Cougars were penciled to face No. 29 Western Alamance (6-17).

The Cougars certainly have momentum going into the playoffs, due in part to the team’s chemistry, according to Bach.

“I feel like as the season has progressed, the girls have gotten close to each other on and off the court,” she said. “You like to see that. We already spend a lot of time together. Everyone has to ride the bus home for away games, but they’ve gotten even closer with their off-the-court friendships. They’ve established a level of trust and respect for each other that extends onto the court.”

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