Southside rolls through non-conference stretch

Published 1:29 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

CHOCOWINITY — Southside’s volleyball team rolled through its non-conference competition before opening its 1-A Coastal Plains Conference slate on Thursday at Bear Grass. The Lady Seahawks finished 5-1 and nabbed a marquee win over Washington.

They’re playing well, too. Southside’s lone loss in that stretch came at Washington, 3-1. They turned around and evened the home-and-home series on their own court the following week by claiming a hard-fought, 3-2 match. Southside only lost one other set outside the five it lost to the Lady Pack.

The team spent its preseason fine-tuning a lot of the fundamental aspects of the game like serving, blocking and hitting. Communication was a focus, too. Coach Atyana Starkie has been pleased — and even a little surprised — with how the work they’ve put in has panned out.

“We’re strong as far as serving,” Starkie said. “With hits and blocks, we’re doing really well up front. … I’ve been kind of surprised. They’ve really taken to (what we practiced).”

Southside has, in years past, put some young groups out on the court. The 20014 Lady Seahawks failed to win a game. Last season, with only one senior on the team, they were only able to pick up three wins.

That experience, as challenging as it was, laid the groundwork for what has already been the most successful season in recent memory. Going through the ringer has produced a talented group of Lady Seahawks. The talent has been there, but now they have the confidence.

“Before, they still had the talent, but it was more believing in themselves that they can do it,” Starkie said. “That’s been the biggest thing. This year, they woke up and they’re ready to play. They’re going after everything they couldn’t get before.”

Among the goals from here on out is a run at the conference championship. Starkie has some improvements she wants to see. One of them is to all but perfect the team’s already strong blocking and hitting.

“I want to get some heavy hitters on this team,” she said. “Get more of them. We have a lot of height. I tell the taller girls that I want us to get to the point where we can block all across the net to where nothing really comes on our side. Those are the biggest things: heavy hitters and blocking.”

Southside should be able to compete with top teams like East Carteret and Pamlico County if they can make those strides.

“I’m expecting us to come out and be one of the teams at the top,” Starkie said. “I see a lot in the girls. They have not disappointed so far. A lot of the parents and staff are standing behind them supporting them as much as we can.”

Sarah Shingleton and Symone Ruffin were tabbed as key leaders on the team. Starkie hopes that they can help push a Southside team that’s already proven itself plenty capable to the next level.