Surry Community College will be suiting up one of the youngest volleyball teams in America in 2019, but the Knights are excited about this year with a team made up entirely of talented freshmen.
Surry won 20 games and finished as runner-up in Region X a year ago, but that entire team has graduated and moved on from Dobson. Still, reigning Region X Coach of the Year Jan Marion-Kiser is excited about the potential of her youthful squad.
“When you are in that situation you kind of sit back and go, ‘Wow, all freshmen,' and you are looking at it from the perspective that it will be a rough season, but these are 10 really good, solid players, ” Marion-Kiser said. “All of them have big hearts and they love the game. All of them are great volleyball players. I couldn't ask for a better group of girls that want to go to the gym, want to work, they all want to win. It is a competitive group of girls so I don't feel like they will be timid or intimidated easily. I feel like they have a lot of fight and it's a group I will be excited to take into a gym and put up against anybody. ”
Before opening the season Aug. 24 at Patrick Henry CC in Virginia, the Knights scrimmaged St. Andrews College and Sandhills CC on Aug. 17 in Pinehurst. After two 30-minute scrimmages against each team, Marion-Kiser came away impressed with her young club.
“They are a great group of girls and they have good chemistry. I was looking for the girls that were going to step up and show me they could be leaders since we don't have any sophomores to step up and be leaders, ” Marion-Kiser said. “And it was really great because it was all of them kind of showed me they have that ability to step up and be leaders and all have the ability to step up and show me they are not going to quit. ”
Adrienne Harris, a freshman outside hitter from Carroll County (Va.), is expected to be one of those leaders for Surry. An incredibly versatile player that excelled at libero and outside hitter in high school, Harris will have a chance to display that athleticism at outside hitter for SCC.
“She is small to be playing at the outside spot but she takes really smart swings. In our scrimmage, she played really smart and took swings on the front row, played really good defensively, ” Marion-Kiser said. “She has a great serve and she showed she could cover the floor and be that all-around player I was hoping for. I am really impressed with her. ”
Piper Draughon from Mount Airy will also play outside hitter for Surry. Marion-Kiser said she played well in the scrimmage as did right-side hitter Nikita Sizemore from Forbush.
“Piper had a really good scrimmage and she was very good at going around the block. When the block came up, Piper figured out a way to get around it and she played really smart, ” Marion-Kiser said. “She's really good at placing the ball and getting us a point when we needed it. And then Nikita is another one that is really smart and really good at placing the ball. She had a couple of really good tips, was smart with her ball placement and getting us some good touches on the block. ”
Marion-Kiser said one reason the hitters played so well was because setter Abbey Johnson, a freshman from Starmount, did a great job of setting the ball and spreading it around evenly to Surry's hitters. North Surry product Natalie Eaton has caught the coach's eye at middle hitter.
“She has turned her game around completely and we are putting her back in the middle. Her vertical has gotten so much better and her block is super strong, ” Marion-Kiser said. “She is taking swings when she is on top of the ball, just a strong, super hard swing. We are running some different things with her and different combinations on the front line letting her take swings. She had some great blocks Saturday. I am excited to see her and our other middle hitter, Colby Crater from Forbush, who rounds out our frontline. Both had a really good start in the scrimmage. Colby is super strong at the net, runs quick, and she and Abbey have a really good connection already. ”
Hannah Williams from Mount Airy has showed great quickness and good passing ability. She has a serve that Marion-Kiser “loves ” and she scored a lot of points for the Knights in the opening scrimmage. Marion-Kiser said Williams and Ashlyn Brady from Galax (Va.) and Emma Garland from Surry Central give the Knights a strong unit in the back. Garland also has a strong serve and is good at placing the ball, while Brady has been a surprise in the preseason for the Knights.
“She is just a little spitfire on the floor, super quick and she is not going to let a ball die. She's not afraid to hit the floor. Defensively she is exactly what we have had in the past in our liberos and she does not disappoint, ” Marion-Kiser said. ‘She will go after everything she can and she is coachable and she is quick and she works hard for every ball. ”
A freshman from Surry Central, Jenna Simpson has been fighting an injury, but should be cleared in time for the season opener Aug. 24. SCC will host Patrick Henry CC on Sept. 3 for the home opener in Dobson.
"It will be a fun season. It's a fun group of girls that have really good chemistry," Marion-Kiser said. "They get along and want to be out there and they want to win, so it is going to be interesting how this season kind of plays out."
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