‘One match at a time’ is focus for West Forsyth volleyball this season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 29, 2019

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

Coach Lauren Gillon, entering her 10th season as the volleyball coach at West Forsyth, said she has already heard from several other coaches in the area who feel that the Titans will be the team to beat in the Central Piedmont 4-A Conference this season.

“From a coach’s perspective, that adds a lot of pressure,” Gillon said with a laugh. “I feel like this might be one of the most talented groups I’ve had, and I got a sense of that last year towards the end of the season with the players I knew were returning. It’s always exciting to see the growth of your players, but especially the ones we knew would be back, knowing how that would translate for years to come in our program.”

The Titans finished 12-15 last season and 6-4 (third place) in the CPC. The team graduated seven seniors and lost in the first round of the NCHSAA 4-A state tournament.

This season, Gillon has a blend of five returning players and eight newcomers. Among the 13 are four seniors, eight juniors, and one sophomore, Clara LaRue, who played varsity as a freshman last season.

Two seniors — Madie Lichty and Jaque Weber — will be counted on to help guide the newcomers. Early season results have been positive, as West won three of its first four matches and played Greensboro Grimsley and Central Davidson this week.

“When we met with the team at the beginning of the season, we talked about our goals and wanted the focus to be on the little things,” Gillon said. “They decided that our main goal was to take one match at a time. Compete in that specific match and focus on the details in that match and the end result should translate into some success. Instead of making our goals bigger, we want to be sure that we are focused on our specific task in practice or matches. We all play to win conference championships and do well in the state tournament, but we feel like focusing on the little things will lead to bigger things.”

Lichty, who has committed to playing beach volleyball for Florida Gulf Coast, and Weber, are the clear leaders of the group.

The two call each other “mom” and “dad” because of the meshing personalities.

“Madie is one of the most competitive players I have ever coached,” Gillon said. “She just plays with so much grit and intensity. And this group can match that level of competitiveness. She can bring that out in them, and they have responded well to that in the scrimmages and matches we have played so far. And Jaque just has that leadership quality you love to see. She was a second-string setter for us last year and has improved tremendously. It’s fun to see how they feed off each other.”

Seniors Brenna Weyant, who has committed to play at Rhodes College, and Taryn Price will also provide the Titans some key experience.

LaRue, who will move from her setter role from last season to a pin hitter, also packs plenty of punch on the front line.

“She is one of those kids who is wise beyond her years,” Gillon said. “She’s the kid that every coach wants to have on their team. She’s all in with everything she does and doesn’t take long to bounce back from any mistakes.”

Junior Kennedy Hairston, a 6-1 middle hitter, will also be a key cog and is drawing plenty of recruiting interest.

“Our conference is always really competitive,” Gillon said. “Reagan and Davie should still be very good despite graduating heavy senior classes. East Forsyth will also be really competitive. We’ll have our work cut out for us every night.”

One match against Davie will be for something more than a notch in the win column. The two will host a “Dig Pin” game in honor of Heather Holmes, the former Wake Forest volleyball coach who died in May after battling breast cancer for the second time. That match will be at Davie on Tuesday, Oct. 8.

Both Gillon and Davie coach Amber Brandon worked with Holmes through her club volleyball program, Twin City Volleyball Academy.

“We both worked really closely with her for several years and she was such an influential member of not just the volleyball community, but the area,” Gillon said. “Her death affected several players on both of our teams as well. We see it as a positive way to bring two communities together. We have a goal of raising $10,000 to help fight breast cancer.”