With a strong group of players returning and several key newcomers, Carroll County’s volleyball team is hoping to build off the momentum of last year’s successful initial season in the River Ridge District.
The Cavaliers went 16-13 overall in its first season in the River Ridge District a year ago, ultimately defeating Jefferson Forest in the Conference 24 semifinals and earning a ticket to the Group 4-A North Region tournament. Leading a group of several key returning players include reigning Conference 24 Player of the Year Eustacia Smith and second-team all-conference selection Cheyenne Strickland.
“We have a good nucleus returning and we have a very strong JV group coming up that we think will fit right in,” said Carroll County head coach Cindy Edwards. “We spent the last three years working with this group of kids and they are excited and we are excited.”
Better communication and more consistency serving are among the things Edwards said the Cavaliers need to improve on. Of course, she thinks the team’s execution can always be more consistent. But all in all, she’s seen way more positives than negatives in the preseason.
“I like their work ethic. They work really hard,” Edwards said. “I like how they get along with each other. I like how the seniors are speaking up and not afraid to tell the others what they are doing wrong and what they need to be doing. I really like their leadership in that aspect.”
Last year, Smith led Carroll County in kills (298) and aces (69), while finishing third on the team in service points (310) and digs (191). The outside hitter also tallied 14 blocks as she was the unanimous conference player of the year. A senior outside hitter and setter, Strickland was second on the team in digs (225) and assists (266) and she was third in kills (150) and aces (33).
“We’re expecting big things out of them. Eustacia’s goal is to again be Player of the Year. UVa-Wise, Roanoke College and Ferrum are looking at her,” Edwards said. “Emory and Ferrum are both looking at Cheyenne. Both of them have big goals and are expecting to achieve big things.”
The duo will be joined in 2014 by fellow seniors Tori Goad and Rachel Farmer, as well as Haley Turner, who played volleyball up until the start of her sophomore season, when she decided to take up cheerleading. Edwards has been impressed by the leadership of the five seniors, but also has liked the leadership by example put forth by juniors Morgan Tompkins and Madison Hull.
“Morgan Tompkins and Madison Hull have worked their behinds off. Morgan just keeps getting better every time she steps in that gym and I expect good things from her this year,” Edwards said. “Same thing with Madison, she is stronger and she’s worked really hard.”
Those two have played so well it has allowed Edwards to move Farmer from middle hitter to the right side. With Farmer being so strong at blocking at the net, a potential move to outside hitter could help the team utilize that ability even more.
“Her blocking is a great asset on that right side of the net,” Edwards said of Farmer.
Having already experienced a season in the stacked River Ridge District, Carroll County should be more ready to take on that style of play this year. Helping with that will be several talented underclassman Edwards is excited about.
“I don’t think they are going to be quite as intimidated because of having already gone through it last year. And where they play club, they get more used to the height and the jump serve and the ball movement,” Edwards said. “(Senior) Tori Goad had a really good winter and spring. I look for her to help us a lot defensively this year. Same thing with Bailey Delby, a sophomore we moved up, and Brenna Hill, a junior up from JV. Torilyn Reavis is just jumping out of the gym as the other setter we have. Aubree Marshall and Bristol Upchurch will battle for the other outside hitting position, which right now we are looking at alternating. Sarah Wright is a junior who is very strong blocking on the right side and she gives us about a 6-foot kid on the right side. Courtney Harmon is the other one and she will play right side of the court some.”