At the start of the volleyball season, Cox Mill High School coach Jason Sims saw the potential in his team.The Chargers returned five starters from last year’s squad, which finished second in the South Piedmont 3A conference standings.But the one player missing from last year’s starting lineup was an all-conference setter and a key component. Sims didn’t quite know how his new lineup would mesh.Through 10 matches, Sims and his players have found the answer. The Chargers took a 9-1 record into their Sept. 17 match with China Grove Carson, which had been undefeated after a victory over Hickory Ridge on Sept. 12. The Chargers lost the match, 3-0.But Cox Mill is still looking forward to a rematch with Hickory Ridge on Sept. 24.Carson, the conference newcomer, was the 3A state runner-up last season when it was a member of the North Piedmont 3A. Cox Mill, however, has been chasing Hickory Ridge for a couple of years now. The Ragin’ Bulls are the five-time defending conference champion, and the Chargers have finished as SPC runner-up in each of the past two seasons.Cox Mill lost the first matchup with Hickory Ridge on Aug. 22, a five-set thriller decided by a fifth-game score of 15-9. Two of the sets were determined by a 25-23 margin, and the other two had scores of 25-20.“When we played Hickory Ridge the first time, it was tough in the first two sets (both Cox Mill losses),” senior setter Alison Hollis said. “In the third game we came together as a family more than we ever have in the season. We really picked each other up. We had so much faith in each other. ... ”Considering each other family members has been the Chargers’ motivation this season. Without a star player, Sims has convinced his players that their success depends on their working together as a team.“I think last year’s team was strong and talented,” said Raven Shepherd, a senior middle blocker. “But this year we have seven seniors, and we’ve all played together on the same team for the past four years. That really makes a difference.”Along with outside hitter Katie Trimble, Shepherd is one of the three-year starters on the team. Sims sometimes calls Shepherd “Big Game Raven” because of her clutch performances. In five-set victories over Concord and North Mecklenburg this season, Shepherd finished each match with emphatic kills.Other starters returning to this year’s team were Alison Hollis; her twin, Emily Hollis, a middle hitter; and senior libero Kendele Donaldson. After last season, Sims needed a setter to replace Meredith Furr, an all-conference player, and he tabbed Alison Hollis to fill the vacancy.Hollis used to play middle blocker and outside hitter. She had no interest in changing positions in her final season. But making the move was something she did for her Cox Mill “family.”“The expectations I’ve put on her are, in reality, not fair,” Sims said. “She didn’t set much at all last year. She was uncomfortable about it. “She thought, ‘Can I do this?’ In the spring, I told her. ‘You’re our setter.’ I couldn’t be more proud of what she’s done.”Hollis leads the Chargers in assists and is second to Donaldson in digs. Junior right side Brianna Sharp is the leader in kills, while Shepherd is on top in blocks.Cox Mill, a school that opened in 2009, and Hickory Ridge, which played its first season in 2007, are the two newest high schools in the Cabarrus County Schools district. Carson opened its doors in 2006. The rivalries between these schools may lack tradition, but they are intense.Last season, Cox Mill lost its two matches to Hickory Ridge by scores of 3-0 and 3-2. Two years ago, the Chargers lost two regular-season matches and the SPC tournament finals to the Ragin’ Bulls.This year’s first matchup provided some drama, and this week’s rematch promises to do the same.“We should take every game just as seriously.” Donaldson said. “The games are always so intense. From the people on the bench to the people on the court, we’re all together. “I think that’s truly when we are a family. We’re with each other all the time, we work hard. That’s what we do.”
Monday, Sep. 23, 2013
A girls’ volleyball ‘family’ looks ahead at Cox Mill
Joe Habina is a freelance writer for Cabarrus News. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less