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Charlotte Country Day seniors seek to end careers with back-to-back titles

By Jay Edwards
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/14/20/09/1vmcff.Em.138.jpeg|209
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    (from left): Seniors Hannah Kintzinger, 17, Katharine Franz, 17, Taylor Portland, 17 and Rachel Janson, 17 (not pictured Asya Patterson) are several of the Charlotte Country Day starters returning from last season's NCISAA state champions, including Davidson recruit Franz. Four of the seniors posed for a portrait on Friday August 8, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/14/20/09/1jljBQ.Em.138.jpeg|476
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    (Clockwise from top): Seniors Hannah Kintzinger, 17, Taylor Portland, 17, Rachel Janson, 17, and Katharine Franz, 17, (not pictured Asya Patterson) are several of the Charlotte Country Day starters returning from last season's NCISAA state champions. Four of the seniors posed for a portrait on Friday August 8, 2014.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/14/20/09/pSYXj.Em.138.jpeg|210
    John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com
    (from left): Seniors Hannah Kintzinger, 17, Katharine Franz, 17, Taylor Portland, 17 and Rachel Janson, 17 (not pictured Asya Patterson) are several of the Charlotte Country Day starters returning from last season's NCISAA state champions. Four of the seniors posed for a portrait on Friday August 8, 2014.

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    Charlotte Observer Volleyball Players to Watch

    Katharine Franz, Charlotte Country Day, Sr.: Davidson commit, reigning co-Observer player of the year had a monster junior year with 455 kills, 291 digs, 48 blocks, and 48 aces.

    Taylor Portland, Charlotte Country Day, Sr.: All-state senior makes plays all over the court and had 473 kills and 338 digs last season.

    Julia Scoles, South Iredell, Jr.: North Carolina commit is reigning Observer regional player of the year after 472 kills, 352 digs and 75 blocks.

    MacKenzie Kuchmaner, Marvin Ridge, Sr.: Mavericks star is one of the best defensive players in theCharlotte area, according to area coaches.

    Katie Tylman, Myers Park, Sr.: A High Point commit, the Southwestern 4A conference player of the year had 70 blocks as a junior.

    Becky Porter, Providence, Sr.: N.C. State commit will set the offense for the Panthers.

    Elizabeth Kaeser, Ardrey Kell, Sr.: Knights’ senior led her team with 231 kills, and will be back to help coach Zoe Bell and team challenge for a conference championship.

    Sarah Billiard, Covenant Day, So.: Sophomore (386 kills last year) plays a big role for a Lions squad that also boasts seniors Hannah Billiard (her sister), Christina Goforth and Megan Embry.

    Rachel Mackey, Charlotte Latin, Jr.: Hawks outside hitter (261 kills, 279 digs last season) does a little bit of everything for her team, according to coach Ellen Kazura.

    Emma Mitchell, Charlotte Catholic, Jr.: Talented middle now steps into a bigger role for Cougars after 175 kills and 45 blocks as a sophomore.



When Katharine Franz and Taylor Portland were freshmen on the Charlotte Country Day volleyball team in 2011, they were very proud to be contributors and starters on a Buccaneers squad that got to the NCISAA Class 3A semifinals before falling to SouthLake Christian. That team finished 23-11 and third in the state playoffs.

After getting key transfers in Hannah Kintzinger (Providence Day) and Asya Patterson (Cox Mill), Country Day lost 3-2 in the NCISAA state final in 2012 to archrival Charlotte Latin. Country Day finished 32-4.

That state final loss turned out to be the key motivator for a 2013 Buccaneers squad that added Kentucky transfer Rachel Janson. Led by the same core of players from 2012, Country Day finished 34-6 and beat Covenant Day 3-1 to win its first state championship since 1992.

Now, five key players return and Franz, Janson, Kintzinger, Patterson and Portland plan on finishing their careers as back-to-back state champions.

“Every year we have improved and gotten better and had a better state finish,” said Franz, the reigning co-Observer volleyball player of the year who has committed to play at Davidson. “All five seniors have been through a lot together, spent so many hours on the court together, it would a great feeling to win it all (state championship) again in our final season at Country Day.”

Country Day coach Brian Rosen has a constant in the team’s run over the past three seasons,

“It’s a unique situation where a team just keeps getting better every season and growing together, and it’s been great to be a part of that,” said Rosen, 28, who is in his sixth year as the Bucs’ coach. “I’m excited about the team we have coming back, especially with five seniors. But there’s a lot of pressure now to repeat (as state champions). So, the question is can we do it again? We believe we can, but we’ve never had to answer those kinds of questions before.”

With Franz (455 kills, 48 blocks last season) in the middle, flanked by Kintzinger (330 kills), Patterson (221 digs) and Portland (team-best 473 kills) on the outside while Janson (school record 1,116 assists) directs the offense, few teams can put together a better lineup.

Add in players like sophomore Casey Portland – Taylor’s sister – and a new freshmen class and the Bucs will be hard to beat.

But just winning their own conference won’t be easy. NCISAA 3A state runner-upCovenant Day and Charlotte Latin will be their biggest obstacles again. Cannon School, Charlotte Christian, Providence Day all made the 12-team playoff bracket last year as well.

But with a challenging conference slate, plus a brutal non-conference schedule that includes Charlotte Catholic, Nation Ford, and South Iredell, they won’t have time to rest. Plus, there will be their own “N.C. Best of the Best Invitational,” when the Buccaneers host 12 of the best teams in the state Aug. 22-23.

Rosen said his team doesn’t need any extra motivation.

“I might be worried if we had a younger team or if I felt like they weren’t as motivated,” Rosen said. “But these girls aren’t content with what happened last year. This team knows how hard it’s going to be to repeat and knows that they are going to given anything. They know that we are going to have to want even more, and they are going to have out work all the other teams.”

Observer Fall Sports Previews Continue

This week, the Observer is previewing fall sports. At charlotteobserver.com/preps, see previews for golf and tennis. Soccer runs Saturday and football, with a look at the Carolinas’ top 50 recruits, runs Sunday

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