The Mount Airy volleyball team is looking for big things in Year Two.
The Lady Bears welcomed a new coach last season. Chuck Morris, a long-time official and J.O. coach, installed an almost a completely different defensive scheme as well as some new wrinkles to the offense.
Without a lot of practice time before the season began, the results were expectedly bad in August. The Bears dropped their first eight matches.
Then came a match against similarly winless Walkertown. The Bears dominated by a combined score of 75-35, and things turned around after that.
The Bears won six matches and came close in several others. North Stokes went 18-7 last year, but Mount Airy pushed the Lady Vikings to a fifth set in both matches. The Bears also put a set on good Surry Central and East Surry teams in losses.
It took a lot of time in the gym to get familiar with the system, said Morris. The girls became students of the game and took a more cerebral approach to playing.
“I am still trying to get the kids to totally buy into the system,” he said. “They are getting that more and more every day.”
The team lost two valuable seniors in all-conference hitter Kathryn Beasley and honorable mention Jasmine Varney. Still, much of the team returns, and some promising youth joins the squad.
Mount Airy returns one all-conference first-teamer in setter Sarah Lankford. The sophomore runs the offense and provides help on defense at either blocking or floor coverage.
Last year Abby Harold was an honorable mention at middle hitter. She switched off with Amy Kunkel. Later in the season, Morris brought up a JV player to the team, Samantha Kovach.
This year, Harold, Kovach and softball standout Katie Hicks will man the middle.
Hicks played volleyball as a freshman, but didn’t play last year. Katie is still working on her timing with the setter, said the coach.
She brings strength to hold her blocks, while the 6-foot-1 Kovach brings plenty of reach.
Kunkel will slide over to the left side to help replace Beasley. She will be joined by Megan Fleming and Lily Smith.
On the right side, senior Autumn Mason is out with a concussion. Madeline Mayfield, the daughter of assistant basketball coach Angela Mayfield, had been impressive as a freshman in summer workouts before suffering a fracture in her left leg.
Madeline is about 5-foot-8 or so and has the best vertical leap on the team, said Morris. She will be off the crutches soon and could rejoin the team in mid-September.
Because of those two injuries, another freshman saw heavy minutes in Friday’s scrimmages.
Sadie Brooks is about 5-foot-8 and may still be growing, said Morris. She is fairly new to the sport, but pretty athletic. Once she gets it together, she will be good.
The back line is anchored by libero Skyler Flippen and defensive specialist Charli Hiatt. They will be backed up by Logan Draughn and Maddy Cutler.
This team is fairly young with just three seniors and a big core of juniors, said Morris.
Looking at the Northwest Conference, the coach said that East Surry has a powerful club that could go deep in the playoffs. North Stokes is always solid, too.
With Atkins, Walkertown and Winston-Salem Prep not much of a challenge in volleyball, Morris has his sights on challenging Bishop McGuinness and North Stokes for that second spot behind East Surry.
One thing about it, he said, these kids are willing to put in the work to get better.
1 Skyler Flippen
2 Maddy Cutler
3 Megan Fleming
4 Autumn Mason
5 Madeline Mayfield
6 Samantha Kovach
7 Katie Hicks
8 Amy Kunkel
9 Lily Smith
10 Logan Draughn
11 Sarah Lankford
13 Charli Hiatt
15 Sadie Brooks
Date Site Opponent Time
Aug.18 Away Surry Central 6:15
Aug. 21 Away Elkin 6:15
Aug. 23 Home Trimatch
— Alleghany vs Mount Airy 10 a.m.
— Alleghany vs West Stokes noon
— Mount Airy vs West Stokes 2:00
Aug. 26 Home * Walkertown 6:15
Aug. 28 Away North Surry 6:15
Sept. 3 Away Alleghany
Sept. 4 Home * Atkins 6:15
Sept. 9 Away * East Surry 6:15
Sept. 11 Away * Bishop McGuinness 6:15
Sept. 13 Home Trimatch
— Mount Airy vs North Forsyth 10:00
— Ashe Co vs North Forsyth 12:00
— Ashe Co vs Mount Airy 2:00
Sept. 16 Home * North Stokes 6:15
Sept. 18 Away * Walkertown 6:15
Sept. 22 Home Elkin 6:15
Sept. 24 Home East Wilkes 6:15
Sept. 27 Home Dig Pink Tournament
— Mount Airy vs Surry Central 10 a.m.
— East Surry vs Surry Central noon
— MA Middle vs Gentry 2:00
— East Surry vs North Surry 3:30
— Mount Airy vs North Surry 5:30
Sept. 29 Away Wilkes Central 6:15
Sept. 30 Away * Atkins 6:15
Oct. 2 Home * East Surry 6:15
Oct. 7 Home * Bishop McGuinness 6:15
Oct. 9 Away * North Stokes 6:15
Oct. 13-15 NW Conference Tournament
* denotes NW Conference match