Fall Sports Preview — Volleyball team hopes to keep building on previous success
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 18, 2022
Eight of 11 players are upperclassmen for the Titans, the reigning CPC champions
By Janie Peterson
For the Clemmons Courier
Last year’s Central Piedmont 4-A Conference volleyball champs returned to practice after a 21-7 record a season ago, which included an appearance in the second round of NCHSAA 4-A state tournament.
Coach Lauren Gillon wants this year’s team to remember that those results did not come without hard work.
“When you have a successful season it’s really easy to remember the highlights and how you ended…we’ve really honed in on how we started last August and how much work we had to put in then,” Gillon said.
Gillon is working with a more experienced team than last year; more than half of the players are upperclassmen. Of the 11 returning players on the roster, five are seniors and three are juniors.
“Senior leadership and experience — you can’t put a price tag on that. Sometimes that’s more important in a team sport than skill or anything else,” Gillon said.
Former captains Emma Cate Burhans and Clara LaRue — who is playing collegiate volleyball at Elon University — graduated but left behind a strong team culture.
“We lost two pretty important strong leaders last year, but the five seniors that we have this year are more than capable of filling that role,” Gillon said.
Senior outside hitter Emily Richards is stepping into more of a leadership role this year as younger players rely on her and the fellow seniors to embody expectations.
“We try to set a good example of how you should act at practice and the standards for the team, because everyone looks up to us now that we’re seniors,” Richards said.
The newcomers include three sophomores, two of whom were previously on the JV team, and one transfer student from Virginia.
Similarly to last year, the team is still on the smaller side in terms of numbers. With 11 players, they can no longer use their old motto of “10 tight,” but will continue to stick to their strategy of working as a close-knit squad.
“It’s still a small group, so committing to staying together as a group is going to be something that will allow us to have a lot of success,” Gillon said.
A connection on and off the court is one of the keys to the Titans’ cohesiveness in game play. Older players on the team strive to encourage close relationships between teammates.
“We make sure we all bond as a team because then it shows on the court; if you know your team, you’ll play better together. We try to do team meals and talk to each individual player and build a connection with everybody,” said Aaralyn Russell, a senior setter.
The players were met their early season workouts with a fierce energy.
“Their intensity level is a major strength. They bought into wanting to be just as successful as last season,” Gillon said.
They are also focusing heavily on ball control — especially defensively — to be prepared for strong rival squads like Reagan, Davie and East Forsyth.
“If players can control the stuff they can control — energy, effort, attitude — it makes it a lot easier for the coach…When players buy into those three things consistently a coach can work on the rest,” Gillon said.
Gillon says the talent and charisma of this year’s group will make the season enjoyable.
“We have 11 quality athletes, but also 11 good people, and to me, good people will make the job and the season more fun than anything else,” Gillon said.
2022 varsity volleyball schedule
• Aug. 18 vs. North Surry 6 p.m.
• Aug. 19 at Orange 7 p.m. (At East Chapel Hill HS)
• Aug. 20 at Southern Alamance 9 a.m. (At East Chapel Hill HS)
• Aug. 20 at Western Alamance 3 p.m. (At East Chapel Hill HS)
• Aug. 24 vs. East Surry 6 p.m.
• Aug. 25 vs. West Davidson 6 p.m.
• Aug. 30 at Mount Tabor 6 p.m.
• Aug. 31 at Forbush 6 p.m.
• Sept. 6 at Glenn 6 p.m.
• Sept. 9 at Reagan 6 :30
• Sept. 13 vs. Davie 6 p.m.
• Sept. 14 vs. Parkland 6 p.m.
• Sept. 15 vs. Reynolds 6 p.m.
• Sept. 19 at Central Davidson 6:30
• Sept. 20 at East Forsyth 6:30 p.m.
• Sept. 22 vs. Mount Tabor 6 p.m.
• Sept. 27 at Parkland 5 p.m.
• Sept. 29 vs. Glenn 6 p.m.
• Oct. 4 vs. Reagan 6 p.m.
• Oct. 6 at Davie 6:30
• Oct. 11 at Reynolds 6:15
• Oct. 13 vs. East Forsyth 6 p.m.
Volleyball team roster
1 — Hailey Huff 10
2 — Emily Richards 12
3 — Emma Norman 10
4 — Veronica Ballas 11
5 — Chloe Randell 10
6 — Kayla Kozak 12
7 — Caroline Hogan 11
8 — Aaralyn Russell 12
9 — Madeline Keene 12
12 — Anna Vestal 11
13 — Kennedy Weber 12
Head Coach: Lauren Gillon
Assistant Coaches: Rachel Ruble & Tammi Lichty
Managers: Hayden Lichty, Jack Thompson, Victoria Shaffer, Liam Shugart