Britney Held is a setter in a front-line player’s body.
And for that reason, the Charlotte 49ers volleyball team has an advantage many other teams don’t.
Standing 6 feet tall, Held, a junior, is a few inches taller than the typical college setter. A former outside-hitter in high school, Held’s experience at the net often gives Charlotte an extra attacker.
In coach Gokhan Yilmaz’s first season, Held has been one of several key players helping the 49ers to a 11-6 record (through Sept. 22) and a few early season tournament championships.
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Starting this week, Charlotte, whose goal is to qualify for the Conference USA tournament, will have its first league road test. The 49ers play at Southern Mississippi on Oct. 3, Rice on Oct.
5 and Western Kentucky on Oct. 7.
Last year, Held was one of three 49ers to start all 29 matches. She led the team in assists and was fourth in hitting percentage and digs.
Charlotte finished 12-17 overall and 2-12 in the conference, failing to qualify for the league tournament. Held is one of four returning starters on this year’s squad.
Held was an outside-hitter until her junior year of high school, when the setter on her club team in Wisconsin got injured. Held’s coach called her into action, and she’s been setting since.
Yilmaz, then an assistant coach at Florida State, recalls watching Held’s club team because he was recruiting one of her teammates. When he started at Charlotte last spring, Yilmaz said, he became aware of Held’s talents.
“I knew she was a very athletic kid,” said Yilmaz, “and I knew she was a kid that could help us turn this around. I knew she would be one of those leaders you need early on.”
The 49ers opened the season by hosting the Charlotte Invitational. Held helped Charlotte to the team title and was named to the all-tournament team after getting 160 assists, 30 digs and 16 kills. Her efforts earned her C-USA’s Setter of the Week award.
In a 3-2 loss to Winthrop on Sept. 2, Held recorded her first career triple-double, registering 41 assists, 13 digs and 10 kills.
The following weekend, Held was named all-tournament at the Temple Invitational. On Sept. 12-13, Held was named MVP of the Wildcat Invitational at Davidson as Charlotte won the team title.
Yilmaz says Held still has a lot to learn as a setter; she’s learning why she should set to certain players at certain times.
Saying he admires her “physicality,” Yilmaz said Held’s ability to reach 10 feet on her jumps is what he likes about her athletic ability.
To strengthen her game, Held is watching video of herself and other quality setters around the country.
“I’m having an awesome season because I feel I have lot weapons on the front row,” said Held. “I can set anyone. It’s just fun to see them get the kill. That’s what it’s all about.”
Some of those leading front-line players are freshman outside-hitters Irem Asci (198 kills) and Sarah Adams, who missed the first week of matches with an injury, and senior middle blocker Savannah Gaster(49 blocks).
After next year’s graduation, Held said, she would like to play overseas, coach a college team or teach and coach at the high school level. In the short-term, she said, she’d like to make all-conference this season.
Charlotte won its last two nonconference games before opening Conference USA play Sept. 26 at Florida Atlantic. The 49ers will play at Florida International on Sept. 28.
Freshman Martha Thomas and sophomore Perri Bonner had a team-leading four goals each through six games.
Charlotte’s game at South Carolina on Oct. 4 is a C-USA contest. The SEC does not sponsor men’s soccer, and the Gamecocks have a soccer-affiliate membership with Conference USA.
Senior Monbo Bokar has led Charlotte with four goals through six games. Junior Kyle Parker (Marvin Ridge) and redshirt junior Dominic Bonilla both had three. Parker had a team-leading five assists.