Local volleyball players help team excel at national tournament last week
The ECJVC Purple 15U volleyball team placed 37th out of 172 teams during the 45th Annual Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Fla. (Submitted photo)
The future could remain bright for volleyball in the Eastern Carolina 2A conference with an infusion of young talent.
A quintet of rising sophomores showed their potential last week during the 15U portion of the 45th Annual Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Fla. North Lenoir’s Paytyn Jones, Reena Parris and Kennedy Sullivan — along with Ayden-Grifton’s Paige Stallings and Greene Central’s Abby Burress — helped the ECJVC Purple team out of Greenville to 37th place out of 172 participating teams and a 9-3 record overall. The team started 7-0, playing competition from across the nation.
The trio of Hawks started as freshmen last season and although North Lenoir began its season with a 3-6 mark, the team went on a midseason tear with nine wins in 11 games before finishing the season 13-11.
Parris said the chaotic atmosphere at the tournament will help in the future, as there were more than 100 volleyball courts at the Orange County Convention Center — one of the two locations the team played along with the VISA Center, and one of the largest convention centers in the nation.
“You would hear whistles all over the place and the courts were right on top of each other,” Parris said. “Balls would constantly come onto the court even though there were nets up and there were a lot of replays, so we really had to concentrate.”
Besides needing great concentration, the team was comprised of players who had only been practicing together for about six weeks. With a quick turnaround and strong results, Sullivan said she believes the chemistry can be even better for the Hawks next season.
“As we’ve gotten older, we’ve bonded more and we’ve got a pretty good team coming back,” Sullivan said. “We only lost four seniors and hopefully we can build on last season and get a lot more wins.”
Burress was part of a Rams team that started the 2017 season 4-1 and eventually won eight games, the team’s most in more than a decade. Burress said she had a great time at the national event and believes she can help Greene Central progress even further.
“It was a great experience and I was able to develop a lot of new skills,” Burress said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work challenging some of the tough teams in the area like Ayden-Grifton and Farmville Central, but I believe we can do it.”
Stallings helped the Chargers junior varsity team to a 16-4 record last season and 9-3 in the ECC. With the varsity team going 21-3 in the 2017 campaign and winning its first conference title in 41 years, Ayden-Grifton has plenty to look forward to in the coming years and Stallings said she’ll bring the lessons she learned in Orlando.
“We learned how to work together and communicate better, so when the season starts I can become a better teammate,” Stallings said. “Instead of getting down after a play, I can help build someone up.”