Sophomore superstars Elisa Wilkins, Emme Davis rising to the occasion

Published 5:39 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Washington snapped a four-game losing streak with Monday’s 3-0 sweep of 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference foe Kinston. With that, the Lady Pack collected its third league win and moved within a game of .500.

The team is led by eight upperclassmen. That contingent includes seniors Sydney Walker, Mackenzie Seiler, Jordan Prescott and Kelli Cooper. However, sophomore studs Elisa Wilkins and Emme Davis have given the experienced Lady Pack more than just depth.

The two have the talent to be contributors on the team. However, Wilkins was thrust into a starting role when, two weeks before the season, Cooper suffered a fractured ankle. Wilkins stepped up as the starting setter.

“Elisa stepped into that starting position and it’s pretty much been hers,” coach Kendall Hihn said. “We’re working Kelli back in, but she’s still not 100 percent. I’ve put a lot of pressure on Elisa, but she doesn’t really know it. She’s done great.”

Elisa Wilkins sets the ball for one of the Lady Pack hitters.

Wilkins is no stranger to injuries herself. She had hip surgery back in the fall. She was in physical therapy all summer and couldn’t join in on preseason workouts until July. Fighting to get back on the court was the driving force in her recovery.

“It was really tough. I just really wanted to play volleyball, and I couldn’t for a really long time,” Wilkins said. “It was hard knowing that I had to go through a lot just to get back. … I knew that I had to prove myself because I was hurt last year. Then I was out for travel season.”

Hihn added, “She had to overcome several things just to step back on the court. The only thing she said to her doctor was, ‘I want to be able to play volleyball in the fall.’ It’s a love of the game combined with dedication that makes her good.”

Wilkins has done more than impressed. She may not have the same experience, but her raw skill is on par with the older Lady Pack players.

Once the ball is set, Davis has emerged as one of Washington’s best when it comes to hitting the ball. Between her and upperclassmen like Walker, Prescott and Summer Campbell, the Lady Pack has a strong group up front.

Hihn said that Davis’ skill at the middle hitter position was touted coming out of middle school. Davis ended up playing plenty of varsity volleyball as a freshman.

“I had my eye open,” Hihn said. “We knew about Emme and we wanted to see how she’d transition from P.S. Jones to high school. We watched her a few games and I said I wanted her.”

Hihn asked her to play varsity for a week. If she was comfortable, she could stay. She’s been a key member of the squad since.

“I remember it was at Bear Grass,” Davis said, reflecting on her varsity debut last season. “I was pretty excited. I was nervous, but overall, I would say I had really good chemistry with the team. Summer, she was right behind me on the court, so I was comfortable.”

Already having about a year of varsity competition under her belt has helped this season. She’s smarter with her positioning, is able to better anticipate moves made by the opponent, and has been playing up on the net more.

More so than anything, though, she’s comfortable.

“Nerves have gotten better going into games,” Davis said. “Last year, I was nervous every game. This year, I’m relaxed and happy to be there.”

The season keeps on rolling for Davis, Wilkins and the Lady Pack when they travel for a league match at West Craven on Thursday.