By Carey Phillips
In a normal year, the N.C. High School Athletic Association would be about to crown state volleyball champions.
Since 2020 is anything but normal with COVID-19, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that instead of the season ending it is just about to start.
Volleyball and cross country will be the first sports to open practice on Wednesday, Nov. 4, under the NCHSAA’s revised calendar.
Smoky Mountain’s volleyball team will start practice next Wednesday in the school gym around 3:30 p.m. The first two days will be considered tryouts, according to Coach Megan Dezarn. NCHSAA limits on the number of players allowed to gather during voluntary workouts will not be in effect once official practice starts.
“Workouts have been going really well,” Dezarn said. “The girls have been committed. We’ve had great numbers in turnouts on the varsity and JV teams pretty much since June. That’s awesome considering the timespan we’ve been working out on preparing for the season to start.
“I think part of that is because the kids are hungry and they are excited,” she added. “Everyone is searching for some sort of normalcy. Sports is one of those things people can relate to and look forward to. I think that’s one of the things that has given the girls incentive to work hard.”
Senior setter Ella Gamble and junior libero Kennedy Stewman are back after earning all-conference honors for an 11-17 Lady Mustang team that placed fifth in the Mountain Six Conference.
Dezarn said she feels good about what the Lady Mustangs have returning.
“We’ve got a core group that’s been here a couple of years,” she said. “Obviously we have some experienced leadership. I hope that will show through in their play. I’m excited about this year. I think we’ve got some strong potential to be competitive throughout the season as long as we can keep everyone healthy and injury free. This group has worked really hard. They have been dedicated and really love the sport. I think they have a good relationship with each other. I’m excited to get started, and I know they are too.”
After a home scrimmage Nov. 12 against Robbinsville, the season will start Nov. 16 against Pisgah.
The coaching staff returns. Angela Chambers is varsity assistant. Melissa Hill is JV head coach and will also be a varsity assistant. Casey Jo Day is the JV assistant.
The schedule is as follows:
Nov. 16 – Pisgah; 19 – Hendersonville at East Henderson; 23 – at Blue Ridge (varsity only); 24 – Brevard.
Dec. 1 – East Henderson; 3 – at Franklin; 8 – at Pisgah; 10 – Hendersonville; 15 – at Brevard; 17 – at East Henderson; 22 – Franklin; 29 – Mitchell (varsity only).
Jan. 4 and 6 – MSC Tournament at East Henderson.