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United Faith volleyball coach building reputation

By Joe Habina and Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

When Sherry Connor was asked to coach a team of standout American high school volleyball players at an international tournament this summer, the Elizabeth resident and fourth-year head coach at United Faith Christian Academy was humbled by the offer.

It took her just a few moments to go from wondering “Why me?” to relishing the opportunity. As a former Charlotte 49ers player and founder of the NCVB volleyball club, Connor’s reputation has grown in the junior volleyball and AAU communities.

Connor spent a week in July in Croatia coaching an under-17 team in an event called the Global Challenge. Her 9-player team included players from throughout the U.S., including her 15-year-old daughter Shannon Bradley, a United Faith sophomore.

Connor and Bradley now are applying their Europe experience to their high school team, hoping it will translate into a level of success United Faith has never known. United Faith beat Grace Academy 3-0 Tuesday night to improve to 6-0. The Falcons were 11-9 in 2013 and 6-16 in 2012.

In 2011, Connor’s first year at United Faith, the Falcons lost all 16 matches. Last year, the southeast Charlotte school made the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1A state playoffs for the second straight season.

With a veteran team of three seniors and two juniors, United Faith won its first three matches this season, dropping only one set. Connor said the European experience changed her approach to coaching.

“In Europe, they don’t let anything hit the floor,” said Connor, 44. “They do crazy things. They train (players) that way. Early on, I told (the United Faith players) you have to get to that ball. We’ve become a scrappier team because of it.”

In 2011, Connor founded NCVB, which fields teams in indoor and sand volleyball and coordinates tournaments on both surfaces. NCVB has a membership of more than 70 players from ages 12-18 in the Charlotte region.

NCVB participates in AAU tournaments nationwide. Over the past couple years, Connor became friendly with NC AAU state chairwoman Dana Wall, who also is the coach at Salem College in Winston-Salem. Connor was assigned to lead the U17 Augusta Blue team, named for a sponsoring apparel company. She and Wall selected players for the Global Challenge by scouting them at AAU tournaments around the country.

Players are required to pay their own way for the European trip. Shannon Bradley raised some of the thousands of dollars through an online fundraising website.

Though Connor had seen some of the players in action, she had not met most of them until they arrived on different flights in Europe.

Playing against top teams from the U.S. and some countries’ national teams, Augusta Blue finished 4-3 and placed eighth in its 14-team division.

Connor already has been invited to accompany a team to next year’s Global Challenge. She said she aspires to recruit more players from Charlotte and has talked of compiling an all-star team of players solely from North Carolina.

Shannon Bradley, an all-conference outside hitter, said she will never forget her summer experience.

“I will remember seeing all those different faces,” Shannon said. “The amount of pressure – I felt like I learned from it. Being able to play at a top level with all those girls …”

• SouthLake Christian beat Gaston Day 3-1 Tuesday behind 13 kills each from senior Claire Crawford and freshman Kylee Garrison. Freshman Celeste Hall had 41 assists. For the season, Garrison has 105 kills, 11 blocks and 29 aces, which leads the team in each category.

Basketball

Davidson Day boys basketball coach Joel Justus has been hired by Kentucky coach John Calipari as an assiatant, the Lake Norman Citizen reported. Justus was 26-24 in two years at Davidson Day. At Kentucky, he’ll join a team that won the 2012 NCAA national title and was in the championship game in 2014.

Girls Golf

Independence High freshman Parker Melting is the only player on the Patriots girls team, so she is practicing and playing matches with Butler High School. Melting scores for Independence at those matches. Her first was Wednesday against Charlotte Catholic at Olde Sycamore.

Melting attended Mint Hill Middle and has been playing for only one year. She won the inaugural First Tee of Charlotte Summer Tour and was First Tee player of the year. She won the N.C. Callaway Qualifying Tournament and the N.C. Optimist Junior Qualifier. Melting was also had top three finishes at a National Junior Golf tournament, a Carolinas Golf Association event and the Peggy Kirk Bell Tournament. Her official handicap is a 7.8.

Soccer

Gaston Day’s Conrad Sloand had a hat trick in the Spartans’ 9-0 win over SouthLake Christian Tuesday. He also had two assists. Steven Manolakis also had a hat trick. Goalie Harrison Romero earned his sixth shutout of the year.

A portion of this story appeared in South Charlotte News/ newsofsouthcharlotte.com; Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
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