Sat. December 22, 2012 at 6:44 p.m. | By Powell Latimer | StarNews Staff Writer
Topsail senior Carlie Smith recorded 320 kills, 56 blocks, 245 digs and led Topsail to its third consecutive undefeated conference season and the Class 2A semifinals. (Photo by Photo by Paul Stephen)
Carlie Smith literally cannot stop smiling. When asked for a serious face in the middle of a photo shoot, she grins instead.
It's not out of character for Smith, who used a relentlessly upbeat outlook and a boatload of talent to carry Topsail's volleyball team to the Class 2A state semifinals and earn StarNews All-Area Player of the Year honors.
As a sophomore and junior, she was part of a Pirates team that exited the playoffs too early, in her opinion. As a senior, she decided she wouldn't let the same thing happen.
"We didn't have chemistry," Smith said of her previous seasons. "And that's a big thing for volleyball because if you don't click as a group, you can have all the talent in the world but you're not going to be able to run plays or do anything. That really guided me through what we needed to focus on as a team."
As one of two seniors on a young team in 2012, Smith made a point to boost her younger teammates.
"Building them up and keeping them calm was a big thing," Smith said. "When they do something well, I don't think they'd realize how good it was. … (Sophomore) Kayla Hiatt doesn't realize how much talent she has. You'd have to tell her, ‘Kayla, that was really, really good.'"
Leadership came naturally to Smith. At 6-foot-1, her teammates and most opponents already literally looked up to her. She said the attention brought on by her height forced her to be more outgoing, making it easier to step into a vocal leadership role.
"It's helped me too to be a leader," Smith said, "Because if anyone doesn't know what's going on, they'll listen to me and I'm usually saying something."
Smith said she noticed the results as the Pirates turned into a more cohesive team. Despite Smith's statistical dominance and talent, she knew she couldn't win by herself.
"If I was getting blocked or wasn't hitting right, I knew there was someone who would," Smith said.
The only problem with that theory is that Smith was rarely off her game. As a varsity starter for four years, the Pirates went 84-18, won three consecutive East Central Conference titles and 47 conference matches in a row.
In 2012, she finished with 345 kills (no teammate had more than 150), led Topsail in aces and blocks and finished second in digs.
When Topsail fell behind, the Pirates turned to Smith.
"I didn't have to take over every game," Smith said. "But some games, coach would say, ‘You're the only one getting the job done, we have to run through you.'"
The results were always good, but nowhere so impressive as in the state quarterfinals. Topsail trailed conference rival East Duplin 2-0 before the Pirates moved Smith into a middle hitter position and constantly ran plays for her. Smith finished with 35 kills in the match, and the Pirates came back for a 3-2 win.
That victory ensured Smith got her wish; the Pirates advanced past the fourth round for the first time and into the state semifinals.
"If I had to leave with a record like that, I'm glad," Smith said, with a grin. "It's a good thing to leave with. I'm sad my high school career is over, but I kind of did all I could do."
Powell Latimer: 343-2261
On Twitter: @StarNewsVarsity
OH Carlie Smith, Sr., Topsail (Player of the Year): 320 kills, 56 blocks, 245 digs, two-time East Central Player of the Year. Led Topsail to three straight undefeated conference seasons and Class 2A semifinals.
OH Brandi Thomas, Sr., Ashley: 68 aces, 372 kills, .331 hitting %, 14 assists, 41 blocks, 262 digs. Led Ashley to a share of its first conference title and first defeat of Hoggard.
MH Montgomery Register, Sr., Hoggard: 216 kills, 107 blocks and led the Vikings to the 4A semifinals.
MH Cassidy Stephenson, Jr., Hoggard: 304 kills, 127 blocks to lead Vikings in both categories.
S MacKenzie O'Connell, Sr., Ashley: Led the Mideastern Conference with 591 assists and 70 aces.
S Kacy O'Connor, Sr., South Brunswick: Led Cougars to a second straight Waccamaw Conference championship and third round of Class 3A playoffs.
L Courtney Mullinax, So., Wilmington Christian: Named to NCCSA 2nd team all-state with 525 digs and 110 assists.
OH Addison Garrigus, Jr., Ashley
MH Felicity Havens, Jr., Ashley
OH Morgan Sullivan, Sr., Wilmington Christian
OH Kayvia Thompson, Sr., Pender
S Angie Poage, Sr., Topsail
S Jackie Sanabria, Jr., Pender
L Jillian Born, Sr., Laney
Ashley: Emery McGee, Chyna Cotton, Kara Plotner. Cape Fear Academy: Merritt Cook. Hoggard: Ellen Tootoo, Elly Cosgrove, Alyssa Zupan. Topsail: Kayla Hiatt. West Brunswick: Alex Wickel, Nicole Phillips, Meeka Hewett. Wilmington Christian: Jensen Attoe.
First Team: Laney–Jillian Born, Anna Faddoul, Kelli Gottry. Rose–Maggie Hallow, Kalee Hathaway, Marie Payne, Emily Steele. Ashley–Felecity Havens, Mackenzie O'Connell, Kara Plotner, Brandi Thomas. New Hanover–Emily Kirkby. New Bern–Hailey Lindell, Caitlin Solter, Olivia Stewart. Hoggard–Montgomery Register, Cassidy Stephenson, Ellen Tootoo.
Second Team: Rose–Shelby Casey, Annie Randall. Ashley–Addison Garrigus, Emery McGee. New Bern–Brittany McKeon, Emma Melton. Hoggard–Shelly Saito, Alyssa Zupan. Laney–Karla Shanahan, Leigh Williams. New Hanover–Shannon Strickland.
Player of the Year: Emily Steele, Rose. Coach of the Year: Norm Cabacar, Rose. Sportsmanship: New Bern.
First Team: East Bladen–Melissa Macon. North Brunswick–Jenna Dunsmore. South Brunswick–Kelsi Kazmierczak, Kacy O'Connor, Cali Watson. South Columbus–Hannah Lee, Hayley Lee. West Bladen–Kaithlyn Sykes, Abbey Walters. West Brunswick–Alex Wickel, Nicole Phillips. Whiteville–Jordan Ray.
Second Team: East Bladen–Abby Norris, Macry Bordeaux. South Brunswick–Heather Hinson. South Columbus–Katie Evans, Miranda Evans. West Bladen–Mallory Davis, Courtney Davis. West Brunswick–Meeka Hewett, Olivia Babson. Whiteville–Jenna Watts.
East Central Conference
Clinton–Tori Tyndall. Croatan–Kalen Perry, Karley Stevens. East Duplin–Makayla Bird, Carson Williams, Lydia Elmore. Northside–Kayla Hill. Richlands–Keagan Jinks. South Lenoir–Caroline Jones, Taylor Sandlin. Swansboro–Toni McTaggart, Bailey Rabidou. Topsail–Carlie Smith, Angie Poage, Kayla Hiatt, Sarah Woodward.
Player of the Year: Carlie Smith, Topsail. Coach of the Year: Hill Pearsall, Topsail.