At the beginning of last season, the Mount Pleasant volleyball team didn't know what to expect for the future of their program.
The Tigers were on the verge of making the difficult transition from the 2A Rocky River Conference to a 3A all-Cabarrus County South Piedmont Conference.
But the Tigers, led by 16-year veteran head coach Michelle Barrett and her team responded in championship fashion once again, going 16-5 last season and earning conference co-champions alongside Hickory Ridge.
"I think it says a lot about our team to have made the move up without missing much of a beat," said Barrett.
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"We're not one of those teams with Division I athletes, 6-foot-plus players or girls with 30-inch verticals. We have great athletes, but we work hard all year round to be a strong program."
Barrett credits her teams success on the fact that so many of her players have played club volleyball in the offseason in addition to going to several team camps with Mount Pleasant in the summers, including the Appalachian State volleyball camp.
All that work has translated into seven consecutive conference championships for Barrett and the Tigers. In the last five seasons, the Tigers have won 99 matches and lost only 17.
"This team and program are used to winning," said Barrett. "So, when we made the move to 3A, I think a lot of people and players were nervous, but we've made the transition and proven that we can play at this level."
This season hasn't been much different, as the Tigers are off to 14-2 start, including 10-1 in SPC play (as of Oct. 8), tied with Hickory Ridge for first place and just ahead of Jay M. Robinson.
The Tigers, who have won 12 of their last 13 matches, are led by a veteran senior cast that includes Elizabeth Widenhouse, who has a team-best 142 kills, Karley Bowman (113 kills) and Kathryn Suther (75 kills). Meanwhile, sophomore setter Kathryn Eudy leads the team with 216 assists.
While this version of Tigers' volleyball team is well on its way to winning an eighth straight conference title, the suffered its first SPC blow, when Hickory Ridge stunned them, defeating them in straight sets on Sept. 30.
"Hickory Ridge beat us like we haven't been beaten in a long time," said Barrett. "I hope that we use it as a wake-up call for our team. We are playing well, but this part of the season is what really matters."
The Tigers hope to go on another run leading up to the postseason.
While the Tigers have won so many consecutive conference titles, they have never advanced past the third round of the 2A or 3A playoffs.
They hope that changes this season.
"We want to win the conference and that is always our goal," said Barrett. "But, we always want to be playing our best ball in the playoffs. We hope to make a good run, but if we are playing our best ball and we lose, then we can live with that."