The North Surry volleyball team ran away with its sixth consecutive conference championship in 2014. The Lady Greyhounds swept 21 of their 28 opponents and finished the season 24-4, 10-0 in the Western Piedmont.
However, last year’s team was filled with senior leadership: player of the year Taylor Hill, Jordan Badgett, Morgan Hawks and Aubrey Hall.
Those are three starters and 75 percent of the Greyhounds’ total kills last season, but head coach Shane Slate believes his current roster can live up to the program’s lofty expectations.
“We always want to end the season as conference champions,” Slate said. “We always put that on the board as one of our goals, and that won’t change this year.”
While last year’s squad was laden with seniors, the Greyhounds won’t have a single senior on the roster in 2015.
It’s the first time since 2008 Slate is fielding a team without a senior, but this hasn’t been an issue for North Surry during the preseason.
“So far, as a whole, the entire group has been motivated,” Slate said. “I like this group of athletes. We just need to get into the scrimmages and start playing some games together.”
One of the reasons this could be a smooth transition is the return of middle hitter Mikaela Johnson.
The rising 6-foot sophomore registered 105 kills and 95 blocks last season during her first year of high school volleyball, and her coach believes she’s primed for another leap.
“Mikaela’s going to be our most aggressive player,” Slate said. “She’s going to be at the net hunting kills and hunting blocks. She’s somebody that forces the defenses to adjust.”
Last season, Johnson often rotated in the middle with fellow freshman Martha Holt. This year, however, Holt is moving to the right outside hitter spot. Slate thinks this move will allow Holt to be a better player offensively.
This switch also provides an opening spot in the starting rotation for Tyra Galloway, a transfer student from Davey County.
Galloway will be another middle hitter that provides great length and helps solidify the Greyhounds’ presence at the net.
In the back row, junior Maggie Hawks returns to play the libero position for North Surry. She is another player from whom Slate expects big things with a full year of varsity experience under her belt.
After that, though, North Surry will have a fierce competition for the remaining spots in the starting rotation. One of the key battles will come for the setter position. Dixie Fulk and Maggie Taylor are the front runners for the job.
Regardless of who wins the starting roles, Slate, who often uses nine to 10 players, won’t be afraid to use his bench this season. The early-season contention will provide the Greyhounds’ with great depth that could be beneficial as the season goes on.
“It’s going to be a competitive environment throughout the season,” Slate said. “The kids are going to have to earn their way, and if a girl is having an off-day, someone else will be there to step up.”
1 Dixie Fulk S So. 5-7
3 Mallory Eaton MH Jr. 5-10
4 Whitney Hall OH, OPP, MH Jr. 5-8
5 Cidney Fulk DS Jr. 5-6
6 Anna Martin OH Jr. 5-7
7 Mikaela Johnson MH So. 6-0
8 Arin Bunker OH, OPP Jr. 5-8
9 Kaylee Freed MH, OPP Jr. 5-9
10 Paige Sizemore OH, OPP So. 5-9
11 Tyra Galloway MH So. 6-1
13 Martha Holt OPP, MH So. 6-0
14 Maggie Taylor S Jr. 5-6
21 Maggie Hawks L Jr. 5-5
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and firstname.lastname@example.org