DOBSON — When Surry Central’s 2015 volleyball team was on its game, it was as good as any team in the area. However, as Coach Carrie Hutchens occasionally lamented, they weren’t always on it.
The Lady Eagles’ 13-13 season included a season sweep of county rival East Surry, a close loss to 1A state champ Alleghany, a sweep of the annual Rivals United showdown against the Lady Cardinals and Northwest 1A champion Mount Airy, and an exciting five-set victory over Forbush late in the regular season. Surry Central ended up making the playoffs, but fell in five sets on the road at West Davidson.
All in all, Central had a good year against a very tough schedule, but there was a feeling that maybe there could have been a little more. The Lady Eagles will look for that little bit extra this fall.
“We’ve got a pretty strong team,” said Hutchens on Thursday afternoon. “We’re still very young, but we’ve got a pretty good offense and defense. We’re just trying to get everything together.”
To accomplish their goals this season, Surry Central will have to replace two departed seniors who were a big part of last year’s team. Ashlynn Jewel led the team in kills, kill percentage, attempts, service aces, and was second in assists. Jess Fowler was second in kills and digs, third in aces, and first in serve receiving. The good thing is that their teammates were all very young, very athletic, and had plenty of potential to improve.
The 2016 version of the Lady Eagles will feature just two seniors, primary setter Sarah Ford and libero/defensive specialist Grayce Goins. That tandem will provide leadership to a team which Hutchens expects to be productive on both sides of the ball.
Ford, a 5’7” three-sport athlete at Central, led the team with 420 assists last season and also had a good serve percentage of 96 percent. Of the 405 serves she attempted, only 16 were bad, and 46 went for aces. She will set up the attack for 6’0” junior middle/outside hitter Brooke Snow, who had 68 kills and 42 blocks last year; 6’1” junior middle hitter Taylor Coe (112 kills, 60 blocks), and opposite hitter Karson Norman (62 and 20).
Of particular value on both offense and defense is junior Ema Coe, who was third on the team last year with 131 kills, but who may have been even more valuable on the defense, where she was second on the team with 185 digs and 210 serve receives. Goins was right behind her on the defensive end, with 177 receives of serve.
Surry Central is breaking in some new talent in the pre-season, and Hutchens said that she hadn’t settled on the rotation yet, but was certain that the Lady Eagles would be quite competitive, both in and out of the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference.
“Things are coming together well. At this point, we’re just trying to get a good rotation down and see what works best for us,” she said. “We just need to gain experience working together.”
Central’s season begins on Aug. 17 at West Wilkes, but before the month is out, the Lady Eagles will have faced defending Northwest 1A champ (and 2016 favorite) Mount Airy, perennial powerhouse East Surry, and 2015 defending 1A state champ Alleghany. The WPAC race includes defending champ and state contender North Surry, along with strong teams at Forbush and South Stokes. The season should be an exciting and challenging one, and Hutchens hopes that Surry Central’s fans will come out in force to support the Lady Eagles in their home matches.
“We love the support of our fans in the community,” she said. “I hope they will come out and see us play. We should be pretty good this year.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.