Gray’s Creek softball standout soars to record-setting volleyball success

 By Earl Vaughan Jr.

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Last softball season, Gray’s Creek’s Kylie Aldridge was named the 3-A East softball player of the year by N.C. Fastpitch. That’s not surprising since she’s bound for Virginia Tech next fall to play there.

But at the rate she’s going in volleyball for the Bears this fall, she could be adding some additional honors to her trophy case.

Earlier this week, Aldridge beat the record for both the Bears and Cumberland County for most career kills.

The previous mark was 956 held by former Gray’s Creek player Kaitlyn Elkins, who now plays at Barton College in Wilson.

Following Tuesday’s match with South View and Wednesday’s match with Purnell Swett, Aldridge has pushed her total to 982. She’s got almost a month of regular season left, plus likely state playoff competition, to add to her total.

Aldridge said she didn’t feel any pressure chasing the record and was only concerned with helping her team win. She’s obviously done that as the Bears are 12-0, 6-0 in the United 8 Conference.

“As long as we were winning, I was okay,’’ Aldridge said. “I like working on plays with my setters and with our defense.’’

Volleyball is much more than a matter of slamming the ball to the floor so it can’t be returned. Teams have set plays to move the ball around the court and get it into the hands of dominant players like the 6-foot Aldridge and others.

One thing that makes the Bears tough, Aldridge said, is having a strong player on the opposite side, freshman Ava Sterling. “We’re able to run the same plays,’’ she said. “We’re able to communicate and bounce ideas off each other, where the blocks are and where the holes are on the court.’’

Gray’s Creek coach Jalesty Washington gives Aldridge much of the credit for breaking the record. “We’ve got it on the back of our shirts, ‘Earned Not Given,’ ‘’ Washington said. “She definitely earned every kill she’s had this year. Nothing was handed to her.’’

The Bears face a key conference match at home Tuesday against Cape Fear.

Cape Fear had been unbeaten like the Bears until suffering its first loss earlier this week to Jack Britt.

“It’s going to be an intense game,’’ Washington said. “We consider them rivals. I feel like they’re evenly matched against us. We’ve just got to keep playing our game, no matter who we are playing against.’’

• The annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas All-Star football game has been suspended for this year because of COVID-19 concerns. The game was to be played Dec. 18 in Spartanburg, S.C.

Shrine officials held a meeting Thursday in Myrtle Beach. The board members concluded the multiple challenges involved in playing the game while trying to ensure player safety were too great to overcome. 

The North and South Carolina coaching staffs will pick their respective rosters and recognize the players chosen even though the game will not be played. 

We’ll also take time to talk about other fall sports in progress, along with any interesting news from the high school scene around the state.

• The Region Four Emergency Fund golf tournament, which raises money given to coaches and others facing a variety of urgent financial situations, is scheduled Sunday, Oct. 10, at Gates Four Golf and Country Club. The rain date is Oct. 17.

There are slots for 32 teams. Prizes will be awarded for the top three places, longest drive and closest to the pin.

There will also be a putting contest, a 50/50 raffle and a cash prize for a hole-in-one.

The fee is $75 before Oct. 4 and $85 after. The fee includes cart, round of golf, lunch and beverages.

Check-in is at 11 a.m., range balls from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 12:45 p.m.

A briefing begins at 12:50 p.m. and shotgun start is at 1 p.m.

This is the link to register online: 

http://www.regionfour.org/registration.html