Earl’s Pearls 1/1

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

 

Gray’s Creek volleyball coach Jalesty Washington warned her players that every match could be their last.
That’s not because they were worried about losing, but rather because they had a genuine fear that new restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic would bring their season to an early end.

But to her surprise and delight, Washington’s team managed to navigate its way through an abbreviated conference-only schedule with the school’s second consecutive unbeaten regular-season record in volleyball.
Granted, it was only 10 matches, but it still sends the Bears into next week’s Patriot Athletic Conference volleyball tournament unbeaten and top-seeded.

The Bears begin tournament play Monday at 6:30 p.m. on their own court against eighth-seed Westover. In a preliminary match at Gray’s Creek, No. 4 South View faces No. 5 Pine Forest at 5 p.m.

 

The other first-round matches Monday will be at Terry Sanford. Third seed Cape Fear faces No. 6 E.E. Smith at 5 p.m. while No. 2 Terry Sanford, which only lost to Gray’s Creek, takes on No. 7 Overhills at 6:30 p.m.

Semifinals are Tuesday and finals Thursday, all at the home court of the highest remaining seed.

Volleyball teams had to deal with a variety of protocols related to the pandemic, but Washington said her team adjusted well to them. “Every timeout, every break I give them hand sanitizer,’’ Washington said. “We’ve all gotten used to it now. It was weird at first.’’

Washington said her team is grateful just to have a chance to play. Her main concern now is getting ready to resume practice and competition after being off since Dec. 21. They had their first practice since then on Wednesday this week and were scheduled for one more workout on Saturday before tournament play Monday.
“I think my girls are a lot more motivated,’’ Washington said. “We’ve got goals we are trying to reach. We are really ready to play in the playoffs.’’
Washington expects top competition for the tournament title to come from second-place Terry Sanford along with Cape Fear and South View.
“We try not to be cocky, stay within our game and play our game,’’ Washington said.


Gray’s Creek is led by Kylie Aldridge, a two-sport star for the Bears who has committed to play softball at Virginia Tech.
Aldridge was the conference Player of the Year in volleyball last season. Currently, she has 25 aces, 125 kills and 11 blocks.
Aldridge said defense is critical for Gray’s Creek to be successful. “If defense plays well, it will allow everything else to flow a lot smoother,’’ she said. “We need to continue to grow as a team and get better every practice.’’

Terry Sanford, the Bears’ likely opponent in the finals, is led by Kara Walker. Walker is second in the conference in service points with 92, second in aces with 33 and second in kills with 127.

In their only meeting with Terry Sanford this season on Dec. 1 at Terry Sanford, the visiting Bears won 20-15, 25-19, 25-22.

***

As previously reported via social media during the holiday break, Cumberland County Schools reversed a decision to shut down all high school competition and practices until Jan. 18.

An announcement was made on Christmas Eve that basketball practice will resume Jan. 2 with opening games to be played on Jan. 6.

All players, coaches, cheerleaders and any parents or guardians in the stands must wear masks. All must observe social distancing both on the team benches and in the stands.

Swimming resumes Jan. 6 with the Westover Recreation Pool scheduled to host the Sandhills Athletic Conference meet on Jan. 9 and the Patriot Athletic Conference meet on Jan. 14.

No spectators will be allowed because of space limitations at the Westover pool.
Lacrosse and soccer can begin practice on Jan. 18. Out of season skill development for all other sports can also start that date.

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

 

Coaches and athletic directors have had to be creative when finding ways to honor their senior athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. At Seventy-First High School, when the Falcons played their final home volleyball match earlier this month, head coach LaKelli Butler, her sister Petrice Fox and members of the varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams put together decorations and signs in the bleachers to honor a trio of graduating seniors. Also visible in the picture are gift bags that were presented to each of the three players. The seniors included Nakeyra McAllister, Chantel Petriz and Mattison Smith.

THIS WEEK’S GAMES

VOLLEYBALL
Jan. 4
Seventy-First at Richmond Senior
Jack Britt at Pinecrest
Patriot Athletic Conference Tournament
First round
at Gray’s Creek
Pine Forest vs. South View
Westover vs. Gray’s Creek
at Terry Sanford
E.E. Smith vs. Cape Fear
Overhills vs. Terry Sanford
Jan. 5
Patriot Athletic Conference tournament
at highest remaining seed
Arendell Parrott at Fayetteville Christian
Jan. 7
Patriot Athletic Conference championship
at highest remaining seed
 
BASKETBALL
Jan. 5
Trinity Christian at Freedom Christian
Cape Fear Academy at Northwood Temple
St. David’s at Fayetteville Academy
Jan. 6
Cape Fear at E.E. Smith
Douglas Byrd at South View
Overhills at Pine Forest
Westover at Terry Sanford
Lee County at Gray’s Creek
Jack Britt at Scotland
Pinecrest at Seventy-First
 
Last week’s results
BASKETBALL
Boys
Dec. 23
Cary Christian 64, Fayetteville Christian 46
Dec. 27
Northwood Temple 63, Oceanside Collegiate Academy 25
Dec. 28
Covenant Day 68, Northwood Temple 65
Dec. 29
Northwood Temple 85, Aim High International 80
Freedom Christian 74, Greenfield School 61
Dec. 30
Davidson Day 75, Fayetteville Christian 44
Wayne Country Day 83, Freedom Christian 55