Cabarrus volleyball teams help each other prep for upcoming season
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Tuesday, Aug. 05, 2014

Cabarrus volleyball teams help each other prep for upcoming season

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/10/32/8D6my.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - JOE HABINA
    Northwest Cabarrus senior Maggie Foster, left, and junior Lauren Dixon get ready for a serve from Cox Mill during a recent summer scrimmage. Many county teams have spent the last two months helping each other improve.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/01/10/32/1b3SvR.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - JOE HABINA
    Cabarrus County public school volleyball teams, including Northwest Cabarrus in its pink T-shirts, scrimmage one another throughout the summer. There are no referees and no champions during the games – just time for players to improve their skills, try their hands at new positions and bond with new teammates in an amicable setting.

Once the high school volleyball season starts in a couple weeks, Cabarrus teams will renew rivalries and vie for county and conference supremacy. But many of them have spent the last two months helping each other improve.

The county’s volleyball programs have a relationship that teams in most other sports do not. Most of the public school teams gather twice a week in rotating locations in June and July for informal countywide scrimmages.

There are no referees and no champions – just time for players to improve their skills, try their hands at new positions and bond with new teammates in an amicable setting.

“The number one thing is girls getting touches,” said Hickory Ridge coach Patti Chason. “It helps with some continuity between players. It allows you to see them in different positions you may not have seen them in. And it’s good just to work out, especially if it’s a rising junior that hasn’t played with the older girls yet.”

It’s a system that, as far as the local coaches can remember, started more than 15 years ago. All of the county teams have participated at some point – even a few from outside Cabarrus.

In recent years, Hickory Ridge, Mount Pleasant, Northwest Cabarrus, Cox Mill, Central Cabarrus and Concord have been the most involved. Local coaches said they don’t believe other areas have similar programs.

“It’s a nice way to play pickup games between teams,” said coach Gina Smith of Northwest Cabarrus. “It sure beats practicing all the time.”

Michelle Barrett has been coaching at Mount Pleasant since 1997. She said scrimmaging with county rivals evolved out of teams not having enough quality players within their own programs to hold productive scrimmages and develop skills in the offseason.

“I can’t get 12 really good competitive players out during the summer,” said Barrett. “For me, the theory is that if we bring six good players and other teams can do the same, we can have some really good scrimmages.”

Since Hickory Ridge opened in 2007, Chason has taken the lead on coordinating the summer get-togethers.

Around May, she sends out a schedule of open dates to all of the schools. The coaches respond by offering to open their gyms on specific dates.

Volleyball’s first official day of practice is Aug. 1, so between mid-June and the end of July, participating teams congregate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They play as many matches as they can in a three-hour span.

The workouts are voluntary for players, and coaches concur that it is rare for them to have a complete squad on any given date. Players have plenty of other obligations and distractions in the summer, such as their own jobs and family vacations.

Maggie Foster, a senior all-conference libero for Northwest Cabarrus, said she remembers how the scrimmages helped her get acclimated to her new teammates when she was a freshman. She was intimidated by the older players and nervous to be around them.

“I think just by touching the ball a few times a week, it benefits you in the long run,” Foster said. “It also gives you a feel for how your teammates play.”

Because the weekly intrasquad scrimmages are primarily for varsity players, teams hold separate skill development sessions for their junior varsity players. And coaches take advantage of some other opportunities to get their players on the court in the offseason.

Many of Mount Pleasant’s players, for example, attend a four-day team camp at Appalachian State University every year. Hickory Ridge and Northwest Cabarrus invite college coaches and players onto their campuses to provide instruction.

This summer, Smith hosted members of Brevard College’s volleyball team. And this month, after she selects her team, Chason will welcome coaches from Queens University of Charlotte.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at joehabina@yahoo.com.

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