The last time Myers Park High’s volleyball team reached the state finals was 2007.
This season might be the best chance the Mustangs have to making it back.
Myers Park has a senior-heavy team, with five of its top seven players in their final season. The Mustangs cruised through their conference schedule, and it’s now time to see how they compare to other teams in the state.
The 4A state playoffs were scheduled to begin Oct. 18. The Mustangs reached the third round last year and are confident they can go deeper this season.
“The team we had that went to the finals in 2007, talent-wise this team compares pretty close to it,” said Bettie Berry, who is in her 17th season coaching Myers Park.
In 2013, Myers Park posted a 17-4 record and fell in the state tournament to Mount Tabor, which advanced to the semifinals. The Mustangs lost just two seniors from last year’s team.
“We have these goals that we do in the beginning of the season,” said Virginia Humphries, a senior outside-hitter, “and everyone’s goal was to be state champions. So we’re really motivated. All we want to do is win.”
Largely responsible for Myers Park’s 15-2 (12-0 in Southwestern 4A) regular-season record this year is its potent front line.
Entering this season, the Mustangs already had talented seniors Katie Tylman, a middle blocker, and right-side hitter Margaret Jones; but a buzz hit Myers Park when former Charlotte Latin player Chanin Scott arrived.
Scott, a 5-foot-11 right-side hitter, complements Tylman and Jones with her skill and athleticism. Through the end of the regular season, Scott led the Mustangs in kills, with 120, and blocks, with 42.
Tylman, a 6-foot-2 High Point recruit, and Jones, 6-foot-1, have missed part of the season with injuries, but others have filled in. Humphries, whose sister Olivia played on the 2007 Myers Park team that lost to Person in four sets in the 4A state-title match, is second on the team with 114 kills.
Humphries’ fellow outside-hitter is her cousin, Megan Owens. Owens has a team-leading 53 service aces behind her running jump serve.
Claire Maloney, an intense and hustling junior setter, has played in a team-best 56 sets, gathering 494 assists with an average 8.8 per set.
“Our big kids – Chanin, Katie, and Margaret – can really kill the ball,” said Berry. “We’re really impressive up front, but you have to do the other things first.
“Our team’s success is determined by how well Payton (Rousseau), Virginia and Megan pass the ball and play defense. That’s a big key for us.”
Myers Park lost just two sets in the Southwestern 4A, one each to Butler and Porter Ridge. Berry says she tried to schedule a couple more tough nonconference matches but didn’t have much luck.
The Mustangs’ only two losses were to Providence High in four sets and to Hough in five. Hough was the state 4A runner-up last year. Berry says she wanted to play both teams a second time but couldn’t squeeze them in.
Berry said Myers Park defeated Hough 2-1 in an unofficial preseason tournament but that when the teams faced each other Oct. 8, the Huskies won a five-set match in which the Mustangs lost a 2-0 set lead.
“Hough’s really good,” said Berry. “Volleyball is a really interesting sport. Until you win the third game, anything can happen. I can’t run out the clock. You have to keep making plays.
“We lost our ball control a little bit and got out of rhythm.”
Those are lessons learned for Myers Park as the regular season was coming to an end. The state tournament will continue this week with additional rounds on Oct. 21, 23 and 25.
“We want to go all the way to the state finals,” said Maloney. “The first stop was the conference championship. The next stop is states.”