It’s loud, chaotic, fast-paced, entertaining and funny. It’s also purposeful, competitive, intentional and deadly serious.
It is King of the Court, a volleyball tournament for male high school juniors and seniors that raises money for local breast cancer charities.
Participating high schools host preliminary tournaments to crown the best senior and junior teams, which go on to the countywide competition. On Oct. 14, 18 teams from nine schools met at Hickory Ridge High School for the eighth annual tournament, and the seniors team from Jay M. Robinson was crowned King of the Court. Organizers did not have a total of how much the tournament raised, but proceeds will go toward the organization’s goal of $10,000 by the end of October.
At Mount Pleasant High School, where King of the Court originated, the mood at the preliminary tournament might best be described as adolescent exuberance. Hunter Buckwell, Jesse McCray and Dylan Oliver, from one of the junior teams, jockeyed to be first to answer questions about their team and why they’re competing.
“We’re the best team,” they bragged, adding that they encouraged family, friends, girlfriends, girlfriends’ parents, and everyone they know to come to the tournament. But they’re all quick to add that “It’s not about winning, it’s about the cause.”
The cause was personified for Mount Pleasant students by alumna Lori Shaver Love, a breast cancer survivor, who thanked the crowd for their support. “This is amazing,” Love said of the tournament and the money it raises.
Out on the floor, the games moved quickly. Each one was just 12 minutes long, with only one time out allowed. The games were a little sloppy – most of the players are athletes in other sports – but they were always exuberant, and a running commentary from the announcer pointed out players’ errors and encouraged the crowd to laugh and cheer.
Kat Craver, a senior volleyball player at Mount Pleasant, served as the volunteer coach for the winning senior team. She said her biggest challenge was to teach her players the rules of the game and to pass the ball higher, rather than shooting it right at each other. Her team did well at the Hickory Ridge tournament, racking up several wins before losing to the eventual champs from Robinson.
For Doug Saunders, a member of Craver’s team, participating in King of the Court wasn’t just about school pride or having fun. For him, it was about raising money.
“People come to see the funny stuff,” he said, referring to the players’ colorful uniforms, the way they joked around or how a quick game of rock, paper, scissors determined which team served first. But, Saunders said, King of the Court is really about giving back and helping people.
Saunders knows first-hand how cancer can affect people’s lives. His grandmother is a breast cancer survivor, and he said that experience made his family closer. “We’re always there for each other, no matter what the difficulty.”
Saunders said it was amazing to see how King of the Court has grown over the years, and he said he would love to see it grow statewide. “If you’re willing and have a loving heart, you can help.”
Marcia Morris is a freelance writer: EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com