BEAUFORT — Two separate two-week team quarantines, a doubleheader and a league championship.
It’s much more than first-year coach Mickey Putnam had in mind when she took over the East Carteret volleyball job.
“It’s definitely been – I don’t what I was expecting going into coaching, but this isn’t what I had anticipated,” she said. “But it has been a lot of fun.”
The Mariners (6-1 overall) were hit twice by the coronavirus two-week quarantine protocol this season, with both coming at inopportune times. They started the season under a two-week layoff and then after starting the year with back-to-back victories, were again forced to break.
“We kept reiterating that we were still going to have a season,” Putnam said. “They stayed active during the two-week breaks, worked out on their own. They all adopted the mentality that they had worked too hard to give up.”
East returned from its second layoff and rattled off four wins in a row, including a doubleheader win over Pender (3-8), to close out the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference undefeated with a 6-0 mark and tie Croatan, which ended up 11-0.
It’s East’s first league title since 2015.
The Mariners, whose only loss came in nonconference play against West Carteret, were forced to get in their 1A league games this week in order to determine the top playoff seed from that portion of the conference, and so Monday it faced Pender in a doubleheader, winning the first game 3-1 and the second 3-0.
The next day, they played Lejeune (0-11) and sailed to a 3-0 triumph.
“Oh my gosh, that was a lot of volleyball,” Putnam said. “We’ve done a lot of conditioning, and we’ve got a pretty deep bench, but that was still a lot over two days.”
Anna Gillikin led the way at the net in the 25-13, 25-23, 5-25, 25-14 win over Pender in the first matchup with 11 kills. Tyler Parker added six kills, and Christa Golden pitched in with five. Ashlyn Guthrie had four aces, while Grace Fulcher put up 25 assists.
East prevailed 25-11, 25-17, 25-22 in the nightcap. Tyler Parker had 11 kills, followed by Gillikin with nine, Kate Guthrie with six and Golden four. Ashlyn Guthrie had three aces, followed by Ashley Popp and Stella Bradford with two apiece. Fulcher registered 28 assists.
The Mariners eased past Lejeune 25-10, 25-7, 25-17. Gillikin had seven kills, followed by Kate Guthrie with five. Ashlyn Guthrie posted a whopping 15 aces, and Fulcher had 15 assists.
“This group of girls just never gave up, never got the mindset that we were down and out,” Putnam said. “It was always like, we are going to get another chance to play, or there is going to be another set.”
East tied for the top spot in the Coastal 8 but didn’t play the top two teams including Croatan, which captured its third straight conference crown this season, and Dixon, which finished 6-3.