BEAUFORT — Another year means another volleyball coach at East Carteret.
Mickey Putnam is now the program’s seventh coach in the past 14 years.
The Mariners haven’t had a coach last more than three years since Michael Turner stepped down in 2006 after six years on the job to take the helm at his alma mater, West Carteret.
“I don’t foresee going anywhere in the near future,” Putnam said. “Hopefully I can change that. So far, I really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s nice to get back to a competitive level.”
Putnam was an all-state volleyball and softball player at Lainsbug High School in Michigan in 2009. A school psychologist, she coached for the first time last year at Broad Creek Middle.
“Google has been my best friend,” she said with a laugh. “As a player, I didn’t really know what went into it. It’s a steep learning curve, but I’ve been able to find help. (Croatan coach) Lindsey Gurley has been super helpful.”
And like all other coaches, regardless of experience, she’ll have to learn how to coach during the coronavirus pandemic. Volleyball and cross country are the fist sports of the 2020-2021 school year.
“We’re the guinea pig,” Putnam said. “Us being the first sport playing under these conditions. It will be interesting to see how it’s going to go. It would have been nice to see someone else model it first.”
In offseason workouts, coaches have limited the sharing of volleyballs within player pods, made sure that players maintained 6 feet of physical distancing and disinfected equipment frequently.
Players will be screened prior to contests, and Thursday afternoon, the N.C. High School Athletic Association announced student-athletes will be required to wear masks for all indoor sports.
“It really hinders what you are able to do,” Putnam said of the protocols. “So, we’re doing lots of drills and conditioning. I’m sure the girls are excited to play a game.”
After an extra-long offseason – the volleyball season typically begins in mid-August – East will begin its campaign on Friday at home versus Richlands.
After a successful four-year run (2012-2015) that saw the Mariners win two conference championships and go 52-28 overall and 40-8 in league play, they’ve struggled over the past three years. East has gone 16-36 overall and 11-24 in conference while finishing sixth or lower in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference.
“I think we will have some success this season,” Putnam said. “We have a lot of good girls. They are a fun group.”
East lost four seniors from last year’s team that went 5-14 overall and 4-10 in the league, including Gracie Somers, Adriana Utley, Savannah Salter and Sara Simpson.
Key returners include juniors Anna Gillikin, Grace Fulcher and Christa Golden.
“Anna is a middle hitter. She is fantastic and a good leader,” Putnam said. “Grace is our setter, and she’s also a good leader. And Krista is an outside hitter, and she brings the energy. And Kate Guthrie is a freshman who’s really tall and a good addition to round out our team.”