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