South Charlotte

Teams face 'tough conference'

The Southwest 4A volleyball title will be highly contested this year.

Providence started the season 1-2 last year, put everything together, won the conference, reeled off 11 straight wins and made it to the state championship game, before falling to Crest.

The Panthers finished 13-1 in the conference and 27-5 overall. Ardrey Kell was 12-2 in conference and 20-8 overall. Butler was 15-11 overall, but their 9-6 conference mark included a win over Providence. Myers Park was just 12-11 overall, but third in the SW4A with an 11-4 mark.

Many key players return this season.

"The Southwest 4A Conference is fortunately, and unfortunately, a tough conference," said Providence head coach Karen Bradbury. "Good competition makes you better and we're looking to get better."

The Panthers are the favorite to repeat as champions and return a solid core of players.

Junior Casey Rieger was a captain last year and led the team with 240 kills. She also had 38 service aces, 24 blocks and 194 digs. Seniors Megan Edwards, Annie Spence and Mireya Braxton also return.

Braxton had 110 kills, 46 aces, 40 blocks and 53 digs while Edwards recorded 235 kills, 67 aces and 122 digs. Spence led the Panthers with 237 digs and 30 aces.

Ardrey Kell returns five players from last season's team.

Junior Caitlin Watkins is the Knights leading attacker, and had a team high 265 kills, 50 aces, 35 blocks and 36 digs.

Seniors Emma Vail, Cameron McDuffie and Caroline Zybala will team with Watkins and junior Sarah Wyczawski to form the heart of the team.

Vail had 167 kills, 36 aces and 37 blocks, McDuffie recorded 101 kills, 54 aces and 175 digs and setter Zybala had a team high 84 aces, 681 assists and had 102 digs.

Butler lost four of its five leading attackers. However, new head coach Sarah Casey will have plenty of talent.

Junior Annaka Beatty recorded 49 aces, 49 kills, 145 digs and a conference best 607 assists. Sophomore Emily Barksdale had 22 aces and was second on the team with 213 digs, Senior Cassidy Clements also returns to a larger role. Last year she had 42 kills and 41 assists.

Senior co-captain Sara Fairley will key the South Mecklenburg attack. Fairley finishing last season with 204 kills, 54 aces, 42 blocks and 144 digs for the Sabres who finished 6-8 in conference. The team returns 10 players including senior co-captain Hatley McArthur.

East Meck was 2-12 last season and lost five seniors and two captains. Senior Sandra Knox does return. She led the Eagles with 162 kills. Knox also had 47 blocks, 29 aces and 106 digs.

Rocky River and Independence struggled last year and are probably a year or so away from competing for the league title.