Ayden-Grifton looks to build upon volleyball success

Ayden-Grifton looks to build upon volleyball success

Ayden-Grifton coach Linda Bryant watches several of her players go through a drill during the first day of practice for the Chargers Monday. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News

Ayden-Grifton will start the volleyball season in a very rare position — as conference champions.

The Chargers finished the 2017 with a 21-3 record and a trip to the fourth round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs, along with the team’s first volleyball conference title since 1976. As impressive as the resume looked in 2017, it gets even better knowing Ayden-Grifton started the 2015 season 0-13 and have been 38-13 since.

Chargers senior Zion Hardy said a greater focus has been vital to the team’s success and the hard work paid off.

 Click to watch Junious Smith III interview Ayden-Grifton volleyball coach Linda Bryant.

Click to watch Junious Smith III interview Ayden-Grifton volleyball coach Linda Bryant.

“Everyone’s really been on their job,” Hardy said. “In the past, you had girls who didn’t really care and our record showed that. I can’t put into words how last year felt.”

The road to a second straight title will not be an easy one with South Lenoir looking to exact revenge after having a four-year conference title streak snapped and young teams such as Greene Central, North Lenoir and West Craven looking to make noise. The Chargers also lost four seniors, including libero Haley Davis.

Still, the Chargers are bringing back a very strong core, including a quartet of strong hitters in Hardy, Alexia Bryant, Emily Dykes and Aaleyah Garris. Ayden-Grifton coach Linda Bryant said the team isn’t taking anyone for granted, knowing the Chargers will get the best efforts of everyone in the ECC.

“I’ve already talked to the girls and was telling them ‘We’re at the top and everybody’s going to be out to get you,’” Bryant said. “We’ve got to come back strong and just continue to build where we left off at.”

Chargers senior Jordan Cannon said the team has to maintain chemistry to continue building.

“We’ve got to stay together as a family,” Cannon said. “It was great winning the conference title for the first time in 41 years and we don’t want to stop there.”

Garris, a junior, said she believes Ayden-Grifton can excel throughout the upcoming season.

“I think we’ve got a lot of great volleyball players on this team and as long as we keep working hard, we’ll be a strong team,” she said.

Bryant said she can see the Chargers taking it to the next level and has set one lofty goal for the team.

“My expectations for this team is to win a state championship,” Bryant said.

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