Ayden-Grifton sets sights on third straight ECC volleyball title

Ayden-Grifton sets sights on third straight ECC volleyball title

AYDEN — Ayden-Grifton is hoping for continued success in 2019.

The Chargers have been on a historic run in volleyball over the past two seasons, winning a school-record 23 games last season, one year after winning the first conference championship since 1976. Overall, Ayden-Grifton has gone 44-5 over the past two seasons — including 23-1 in the Eastern Carolina Conference — and reached the fourth round of the NCHSAA 2A state playoffs both years.

The Chargers will be younger this season after losing two vital seniors — Jordan Cannon and Zion Hardy — and Ayden-Grifton coach Linda Bryant said the team has some work to do before the season opener.

“Looking at this group of girls, the unity isn’t there yet,” Bryant said. “We definitely have a good group of girls, but they’re not as vocal right now. I feel like they’re listening, but they’re young and they’ll have to bring a lot of heart for us to win. Right now, it’s not as much about skill.”

One of the younger players, sophomore Abby Langemann, said it’ll be a process to get back to previous levels of success.

“It’s going to take dedication, movement on the court and talking,” Langemann said. “I feel like we’ll be faster, but we have to work together on the court to reach that same level of previous years.”

Ayden-Grifton senior Alexia Bryant has been a vital part of the team over the past three seasons — the Chargers went 12-7 in 2016, finishing second in the conference — and said there’s great potential for another strong campaign.

“We have to stay focused in games,” Bryant said. “Last year, we lost in the fourth round because we were more tired mentally than physically, and we have to get stronger there. The younger players are really good, and as long as they continue to work hard we’ll be good.”

Senior Emily Dykes shared similar sentiments.

“We’ve been working hard all summer for this, and I definitely feel like the younger players bring some excitement,” Dykes said. “As seniors, we have to hype them up and encourage them throughout the season.”

Bryant said she believes the team can continue its high pace.

“I have confidence and still believe we can win the conference,” Bryant said. “By the time I’m done working with them, I believe we can make it to the fourth round and beyond. The younger kids have to let loose.”

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