THE CLIPBOARD

Green credits senior leadership, Smollen’s talent for Wolves’ scalding hot start

BY VICTOR HENSLEY, News + Record Staff
Posted 9/8/21

Woods Charter is on pace to have one of its best volleyball seasons in school history. After starting the year with a near-perfect 5-1 record — with the lone loss coming in a five-game match to Eno …

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THE CLIPBOARD

Green credits senior leadership, Smollen’s talent for Wolves’ scalding hot start

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Posted

Woods Charter is on pace to have one of its best volleyball seasons in school history. After starting the year with a near-perfect 5-1 record — with the lone loss coming in a five-game match to Eno River, which the Wolves beat, 3-0, in the rematch two weeks later — Woods Charter has already surpassed the win total of the previous three seasons ... combined (4). Behind the staggering offense of sophomore star Lexi Smollen — who earned the MaxPreps Volleyball Player of the Week award (Aug. 23-29) for North Carolina after tallying 54 kills, 6.75 kills per game and 24 digs in eight games played — the Wolves are already priming themselves for the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the 1A classification.

With Woods Charter’s season in full swing, the News + Record sat down with Wolves fourth-year head coach Scott Green to discuss his team’s fantastic start, his opinion on Smollen’s dominance and what it’ll take for the Wolves to lock in a playoff spot down the line. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The last three years haven’t been the best for Woods Charter volleyball in terms of overall record, but this season, your team is 5-1 and looking phenomenal through six matches. What has been the biggest difference from the last three seasons to this season? What’s changed?

SCOTT GREEN: Well, we’ve got a player in Lexi Smollen that can terminate the ball, that can deliver kills both in the front row and in the back row. She’s a sophomore, of course last year she played, too, she was a freshman, but in between last year and this year, she played on a junior club team and got some good experience there. So, this year I’ve found that she’s more consistent with her hitting, her serve has improved and she seems to have more confidence and she doesn’t get rattled as much if she makes a mistake. She’s just really made an impact on our team.

Another thing is we had the addition of a freshman setter, Maya Sheridan, who, even though she’s a freshman, she’s been playing club for several years and has a lot of playing experience. She’s able to deliver the ball to where Lexi can kill it, so that’s one of the main reasons why we’re having success. Another reason is we got a core group of six seniors, so we’ve got a lot of playing experience and leadership on the team from them. I guess it’s just a good blend of the youth and the leadership together and it’s just all kind of coming together at the same time.

You’ve spoken highly of Lexi, who’s clearly been on a tear with 152 kills in just six matches and has already won a MaxPreps Player of the Week award for North Carolina. What is it that she brings to the table that makes her so good at what she does?

Well, she’s tall, she’s 6 feet tall. It’s hard to block her because she’s reaching up so high to hit the ball. She’s also constantly calling for the ball, she wants it all the time, so she has a confidence that she can deliver a kill when we need it.

Who are some of the other players on the team that may be flying under the radar that have been keys to the Wolves’ success this season?

We have Jana Thompson, who’s our senior libero; she’s generating a lot of defensive plays, a lot of digs for us. She had a really outstanding game the other night where she had close to 30 digs, maybe high 20s. She’s doing that every night out, so that’s really helpful in transitioning from the opponent attacking us to attacking the opponent, that’s really kind of vital to have that type of defensive play. And we’ve got some other seniors like Julia Christian and my daughter, Ada Green, along with Leila Adams, Emma Hobbs and our senior setter, Celine Keles, who will definitely get some playing time. Those six seniors came in as freshmen when I came in, so they’ve been with me the entire time. I’m just thankful to have them and their leadership.

With your team being 5-1 right now, what’s it going to take to sustain that level of success and make it to the playoffs down the road?

We’ve just completed our non-conference schedule, so now we’re about to get into where we’re having multiple conference games in a row, so we just need to just sustain the level that we’ve had over the past several weeks into the conference schedule. I think if we can do that, we’re going to be in pretty good shape at the end of the season come conference tournament time.

What are you looking for at the end of the year for this, in your eyes, to be a successful season?

I think it’s going to be a successful season if we can just improve every day, just go out and try to get better, be a better team when we leave the gym than when we arrived to the gym. That’s the key to success for us. I don’t want to really have it all hinged on whether we get a set number of wins or finish somewhere in the standings or a conference championship or something like that. I just want us to be a team that focuses on the process and not on the results. Just improve every day.

For you, who’s had to withstand the last few not-so-prosperous seasons, what will it mean to you if your team can make the postseason this year?

I’ll just be glad for them because they’re the ones that put all the work in and come to all of the practices and do all of the drills and all of that other stuff. It’s good for them to finally get some rewards and accolades for all of the work they’ve put in after the last four years of this journey.

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