Hickory Ridge’s volleyball team has won five straight conference championships. But among this year’s South Piedmont 3A teams, it wasn’t the Ragin’ Bulls that had the most memorable 2012 season.After conference realignment, China Grove Carson is one of four Rowan County teams that are new this season to the SPC. It was the Cougars who were the 3A state runners-up in 2012, beating Hickory Ridge in the state playoffs.Veteran Hickory Ridge coach Patti Chason is well aware that her team has a new conference rival without ever having played a conference match against Carson. Those teams are likely to compete for the SPC crown, because the other three newcomers finished at the bottom of their old conference, the North Piedmont 3A, in 2012.“We have to keep Carson on our radar,” said Chason. “We lost to Carson twice last year. We won one game each time, which was good for our girls.“I always try to load our nonconference schedule with power teams because you might see them again in the playoffs. Our girls would get overwhelmed. We couldn’t adjust and the wheels would fall off.”Carson had eight players last year who were named to the All-Rowan County team.Hickory Ridge swept through the South Piedmont schedule last year, finishing with a 14-0 mark and winning its third straight conference tournament. The Bulls lost to Carson in the second round of the state playoffs to finish 23-4 overall.Nine seniors graduated from that team, but Hickory Ridge has a core of a half dozen players returning including four seniors and 10 juniors.Becca Cochran, a senior outside hitter, was the SPC Player of the Year last year. She led the conference with an average of 2.9 kills per set and was second in the league with a .318 hitting percentage. Led by junior Breanna Cary, Hickory Ridge has the luxury of a bevy of setters. Cary was the conference leader with a 5.6 assists per set average. She topped the Bulls with 400 total assists.Another junior, outside hitter Krystin Jones, should take a leading role in Hickory Ridge’s offense after serving last year as a key utility player. Chason has been impressed with the Bulls’ pre-season workouts and scrimmages.“I definitely feel we’re playing cohesively,” she said. “I have a group of girls that want it bad. They step on the court, their focus is there. They push each other. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had that.”Cox Mill, which finished second in the SPC last year, returns three key starters in seniors Kendele Donaldson, a libero, and middle blocker Raven Shepherd, and junior middle blocker Emily Hollis. In addition to the Chargers, Concord, Northwest Cabarrus and Mount Pleasant also made the state playoffs.Mount Pleasant has the luxury of returning to class 2A and to the Rocky River 2A conference, which it dominated from 2003 to 2008. The Tigers found the SPC much more challenging during the last four years and coach Michelle Barrett is happy to return to their old league.Mount Pleasant tied for the SPC regular-season championship with Hickory Ridge in 2009, then its success tailed off. The Tigers finished in fifth place last year.“It was a nice run for a while,” said Barrett. “We’re trying to build up the program and get our numbers (of players) up again. What we did, finishing third in 2011 and fifth in 2012, that was the best we could do.”Barrett is pleased with the 11 players she has on the varsity roster and 15 on the junior-varsity team, including 11 freshmen. Leading the Tigers is senior setter Darrian Bolt and junior middle hitter Jazzmin Williams.
Friday, Aug. 16, 2013
Hickory Ridge volleyball prepares for new challenges in new SPC
Volleyball players to watch • Becca Cochran, Hickory Ridge • Breanna Cary, Hickory Ridge • Kendele Donaldson, Cox Mill • Emily Hollis, Cox Mill • Darrian Bolt, Mount Pleasant • Dallas Baucom, Central Cabarrus • Alicia Stewart, Concord • Caroline Zwick, CFA Academy
Joe Habina is a freelance writer for Cabarrus News. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at email@example.com.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less