Stepping Up: Playoff season is upon us

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Wednesday marks the beginning of the postseason for tennis and volleyball. Washington’s tennis team will be at home on Wednesday to host Bartlett-Yancy in first-round action, while the Lady Pack volleyball squad will hit the road for South Columbus.

Southside and Northside will both begin their forays into the 1-A playoffs. In addition to Washington tennis, the Lady Panthers round out Beaufort County teams that will host first-round action as they welcome Raleigh Charter on Wednesday evening.

Lady Pack tennis will look to build on recent success starting with its first-round dual team match. It’s something that the team has been preparing for since the season opened with Edenton on Aug. 17. Washington went winless through its non-conference stretch, but took the experience it gained against stout competition and used it to plow through its league opponents.

Only North Johnston stood a chance.

A tough non-conference slate is something that been thematic for Washington athletics this fall. The football team opened the season with three juggernauts in Havelock, Tarboro and Conley. The Pam Pack ended up starting 0-6, but has won two straight since opening league play.

Washington, Northside and Southside’s volleyball teams all have first-year coaches as they gear up for postseason play. The Lady Panthers are no stranger to the postseason. They made it both years that former coach Kayla Maddox was at the helm, advancing all the way to the third round in 2014.

Northside has six seniors, and only one underclassman. While coach Michelle Leathers may have spent the beginning of the season getting her footing as a volleyball coach, she’s no stranger to playoffs. She’s helped guide the Lady Panthers basketball team to the postseason numerous times. This winter will be her eighth year as the bench boss.

Atyana Starkie is Southside’s first-year coach. The stars aligned for the Lady Seahawks this season. Starkie has proven herself an exceptional coach, and the talented group — consisting entirely of upperclassmen — has put together everything its experienced after a few years of marginal success.

Southside had won just eight games in its previous three seasons combined. It took 10 games this season to surpass that total, and they’re not done yet. The Lady Seahawks have tasted success. They will look to build on this season with a successful playoff run that will sendoff the team’s seven seniors, while also setting the table for future success with a talented group of five juniors.

Finally, coach Kendall Hihn will look to make a splash in her first season directing the Washington volleyball team. The Lady Pack has doubled its win total from last season’s four-win showing, and still has a lot to accomplish.

In front of them, though, is an impressive South Columbus team. The Lady Stallions have 24 wins on the season, and rolled through the Three Rivers Conference with a perfect 14-0 record.

No team in the area has a stronger opponent waiting, but Washington has seen some impressive competition in and out of conference play. League foes Farmville Central and North Pitt are among the best teams in the region, while Riverside is one of the better squads at the 1-A level.

Upperclassmen Sarah Lynch, Briley Waters, Meghan Moore, Charity Gardner and Sydney Walker know what it takes to be successful, too. They were all young, but important components of Washington’s 17-win 2014 season under former coach Kelly Slade.

Wednesday is the beginning of an exciting time in fall athletics. Volleyball and tennis playoffs are underway, while soccer, football and cross country will follow soon. It will be fun to watch for which Beaufort County teams make a splash against the best competition from around the state.