PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Easy Surry volleyball team’s magical run in 2014 came up a few points short when the Lady Cardinals dropped the fifth and final set of their state championship match against Princeton High School.
Coach Caleb Gilley lost seven seniors from last year’s runner-up squad, but the fifth-year coach believes a young team can be equally successful if they focus on the details.
“We’ve really tried to go back to the basics and focus on the fundamentals in the spring and now in the summer,” Gilley said. “If we can be fundamentally sound and have the right focus and intensity, we will be just fine.”
It helps to also have talent, and Gilley isn’t shy on his expectations for the Cardinals in 2015.
His talent starts with the two returning seniors from last year’s team that went 29-2: Sydney Marion and Hayley Whitaker.
Marion plays inside hitter and is a talented blocker who worked on her offense during the offseason. She notched 100 kills and led the Cardinals with 111 blocks last year.
Whitaker plans to mix in between the libero and defensive specialist positions. She will lead the back row and also look to provide the offense with some points off her serve.
Gilley said that both Marion and Whitaker have been two of the hardest workers this offseason.
“They’re roles are going to be bigger so they’ve had to work on a lot of things,” Gilley said. “But their biggest new role is going to be as leaders of this volleyball team. They’ve worked really hard in the summer on being better leaders in order to keep everyone together.”
Joining Marion at the inside hitter position will be senior Kendall Beck, who was not on the team last season. Gilley said Beck has impressed with her ability to block and read an opposing team’s offense at the net.
Bethany Clayton is a sophomore who received minimal playing time on varsity, but despite the limited experience, Clayton figures to be a key player for the Cards.
“I’m expecting a lot from Bethany. She is going to have to do a little bit of everything for us,” Gilley said. “She will set and hit for us. She is young and she’s learning, but there is a lot of potential.”
Bryce Smith will be the libero and will have the difficult task of replacing three-year starter Sydney Mosley. Smith focused on improving her passing in the offseason.
Sophomores Sami Marion and Alyssa Jessup will support Cameron Sloop as the three outside hitters in the East attack.
The inexperienced roster will immediately be put to the test in the regular season. After the opening match against East Wilkes on Aug. 17, the Cards face North Wilkes and North Surry in back-to-back matches.
North Wilkes and North Surry combined to go 44-8 last season.
“I like playing good teams early. You don’t get any fake confidence,” Gilley said. “We want to challenge our girls early in the season so they can be ready for a challenging conference schedule when it gets a little later on.”
The challenging schedule will allow the East Surry girls to see just what they’re made of. There are high expectations inside the program, especially after last year’s deep playoff run.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702.