MOREHEAD CITY — If not for Hurricane Florence, the West Carteret volleyball team might be vying for its sixth straight league championship.
The Patriots finished as runner-up in 2018 with a 4-1 record after losing to Jacksonville and not getting a rematch thanks to a league schedule that was cut in half.
They won the 3A Coastal Conference last year and captured four in a row from 2014-2017.
“We’ve been hit twice,” coach Michael Turner said of Florence and now the coronavirus pandemic affecting schedules. “But we have a chance to play.”
Teams are allowed to play just 14 regular season matches this year with the coronavirus pandemic amended schedule. West, however, has just five league opponents, and most bigger conferences filled their 14 games with league contests, meaning there were no other games available.
The Morehead City club will play just 11 regular schedule games thanks to one nonconference matchup with New Bern.
“That is all we could find,” Turner said. “Teams in bigger leagues had their schedules done, and we are a geographical oddity. You’re not getting Weddington to come down here and play us.”
West may pick up another couple of games in the Coastal Conference Tournament and is hoping to add more games in the 3A playoffs.
Making the playoffs hasn’t been much of a problem in most of Turner’s 13 years at the helm. He’s led the program to a 103-25 record over the past six years.
“I’m pretty fired up,” he said. “I think we’re going to be good. The kids that we have coming back, it’s amazing how much they’ve improved since June. They’ve been great.”
Grayson Edwards returns after a standout sophomore season that saw her rank second on the team in both aces (60) and serving points (158), as well as third in kills (127) and blocks (22).
Megan Kenon is also back after shining as a freshman with a team-leading 48 blocks.
“Megan is so much stronger and confident,” Turner said.
He’s also expecting big things from Cayman Montgomery who has shown her athleticism as one of the top basketball players in the school over the past two seasons.
“She’s one of the more improved players I’ve seen,” Turner said. “She has been really aggressive, and she’s always been crazy athletic.”
Also returning is senior Olivia McNair and junior Emma Nicholson. McNair was fifth on the team with 14 blocks and sixth with 36 kills, while Nicholson was fifth in digs (97) and sixth in both service points (82) and aces (30).
Six seniors graduated form last year’s team, including Abby Scudder who was one of the best hitters in school history with 326 kills as a senior.
Meade Varner, the top defender with 263 digs, and Allison Johnson, the top setter with 598 assists, also graduated, as did Paige Thomason, a fine all-around player who ranked second in blocks (32) and fourth in kills (74).
“It’s never easy to replace ones that go, but you have to do it,” Turner said.
The Patriots will begin the season Tuesday at home versus Jacksonville.
Fans aren’t allowed at games this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but most matches of area schools can be watched live or at a later date via a subscription to the streaming services offered by NFHSNetwork.com.
“These girls are going to be fun to watch on the court this year,” Turner said. “I just hate the gym can’t be packed. We talk all the time about the problems with COVID, but it does offer some opportunities we didn’t have before. With this streaming service, parents can watch it live or wait till their kids get home and watch it with them, so that is something.”