Preview: How will local volleyball teams fare in 2020?

Regular season started Monday for five Chatham County high schools

BY CHAPEL FOWLER, News + Record Staff
Posted 11/18/20

With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

In alphabetical order, …

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Preview: How will local volleyball teams fare in 2020?

Regular season started Monday for five Chatham County high schools

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With high school sports gradually returning, the News + Record is previewing local teams across Chatham County, from Pittsboro to Siler City to Bear Creek to Chapel Hill.

In alphabetical order, here’s a breakdown for local volleyball teams, who along with cross country teams were the first to start their 2020-21 coronavirus-altered seasons with official competitions on Monday.

Chatham Central Bears

Head coach: Brett Walden, third season

Assistant coach: Katherine Little

2019 highlights: 14-11, 9-7 Yadkin Valley 1A Conference, lost in second round of playoffs

2020 outlook: The Bears in a word? Experienced. Walden is excited to return five seniors from a rock-solid 2019 team. Four of them played frequently as juniors, and two of them have been entrenched as starters since their sophomore year. Walden added that lead assistant coach Little, a 2017 Chatham Central graduate and four-year volleyball player, has been “a big part of our success” so far.

Top returners: Senior Tanner Little was an all-conference libero last season, and senior Lindsay Polston has long been a steady presence at setter. Senior outside hitter Grace Jones led the team in kills last season, and senior middle blocker Savannah Stilwell led the team in blocks. Junior Lindsey Johnson was the only underclassman on last year’s varsity roster and played as a defensive specialist.

Top newcomers: Junior Sadie Gaines will likely replace 2020 graduate Eliana Phillips at defensive specialist, and junior Ivey Tillman will likely replace 2020 graduate (and Greensboro College softball commit) Olivia Hudson as the team’s second middle hitter opposite of Stilwell. Taylor Poe, a junior, is versatile and will see playing time somewhere on the court.

Full roster | Full schedule | Previous coverage

Chatham Charter Knights

Head coach: Johnny Alston, fifth season

Assistant coach: Jamarr Ross

2019 highlights: 16-12, 11-4 Central Tar Heel 1A Conference, lost in first round of playoffs

2020 outlook: Chatham Charter was “outstanding” under coach Holley Hall last season, Alston said. Now, after a one-year break, he’s back for a fifth overall season with the team and ready for the Knights to get rolling again. Chatham Charter has made the 1A playoffs two seasons in a row and returns two all-conference seniors plus three more honorable-mention players in 2020. They’ll be a team to watch.

Top returners: Morgan Lineberry and Breanna Spinks have been mainstays at middle hitter/blocker for three seasons now; they were both all-conference picks in 2019 and “provide great leadership,” Alston said. As do senior Sydney Bowman, junior Molly Wilson and sophomore Emerson Clark, all of whom were all-conference honorable mentions. Reserves include seniors Grayson Haiges and Riley Bennett.

Top newcomers: the Knights welcome a few JV players to the varsity roster: juniors Olivia Cheek and Taylor Brewer and sophomores Alison Perez, Ashlee Rains and Tamaya Walden (a basketball standout), Freshmen Riley Maynor and Delana Loflin both have previous experience at the middle school level.

Full schedule | Previous coverage

Jordan-Matthews Jets

Head coach: Taylor Crowder

2019 highlights: 2-16, 1-11 PAC 7 2A Conference

2020 outlook: After a rough 2019, the Jets might as well shoot for a fresh start. Jordan-Matthews lost four seniors from last year’s squad and had no all-conference picks. Will that year of action help its sophomore class make the jump now that they’re juniors? In 2020, one can hope.

Top returners: Eve Long is a returning senior, and J-M also hopes to benefit from a large and experienced class of juniors: Alana May, Courtney Shackelford and Erin Maddox. Macy Beavers is a returning sophomore.

Top newcomers: N/A

Full schedule

Northwood Chargers

Head coach: Krista McGivern

Assistant coach: Olivia Metcalf

2019 highlights: 9-16, 3-10 in Big 8 3A Conference, lost in first round of playoffs

2020 outlook: Northwood struggled in one of the 3A classification’s top conferences last season. But McGivern hopes her Chargers can take a step forward with an experienced roster that features three seniors and seven juniors used to the grind of the Big 8 — plus one intriguing freshman. The Chargers will develop talent this season, too, with a nine-player JV team coached by Metcalf.

Top returners: Senior setter Kennedy Cox and junior outside hitter Hannah Forbes (the daughter of UNC baseball coach Scott Forbes) are the team captains this season. They should take a big statistical step forward, especially with the Chargers’ only all-conference player last season having transferred.

Top newcomers: On a roster of upperclassmen, freshman outside hitter Asia Thigpen stands out. McGivern wouldn’t have placed Thigpen on the varsity roster if she didn’t believe in her.

Full roster | Full schedule | Previous coverage

Woods Charter Wolves

Head coach: Scott Green, third season

Assistant coach: Taylor Ritchie

2019 highlights: 1-17, 0-14 Central Tar Heel 1A Conference

2020 outlook: Woods Charter has finished last in its conference two seasons in a row. But with a core group of eight juniors returning, “we’re striving to move up,” Green said. With an improving attack from his middle hitters, too, Green hopes he can take some pressure off outside hitters and, more importantly, compete consistently in the Central Tar Heel Conference.

Top returners: Junior Emi Hutter-DeMarco is an “all-around outstanding” player, Green said. She’s an outside hitter who also plays basketball. Junior Jana Thompson is a natural leader and repeat team captain who’s moving from libero to outside hitter this year. Juniors Emma Hobbs, Julia Christian and Ada Green (Scott’s daughter) are also returning and will see time.

Top newcomers: Freshman middle hitter Lexi Smollen has height and “potential in the middle,” Green said. And freshman libero Chloe Haswell has shown “outstanding effort and hustle” in practices.

Full roster | Full schedule | Previous coverage

Reporter Chapel Fowler can be reached at or on Twitter at @chapelfowler.


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