Abby Wallace was primarily a defensive specialist during her four-year varsity volleyball career at Pinecrest High School. But when Sandhills Community College coach Alicia Riggan watched her during a tryout before the 2017 season, she had a different idea.
"We saw that she had great hands and it was, 'you're going to set for us,'" the coach recalled following Tuesday's double sweep of Vance Granville CC in conference action at the Hangar.
During last Thursday's match against Pitt CC, Wallace surpassed Ashleigh McKenzie (2013-14) for second place in career assists in the Flyer record book. Against the Vanguards, she was credited with 39 assists in the opener and 34 in the nightcap to pass Cheyenne Brown (2015-16) with a career total of 1,471.
The Lady Flyers (19-3 overall, 8-0 Region X) also set a new standard as a team. By winning the first match 25-7, 25-8 and 25-13, and the second 25-13, 25-19 and 25-12, they increased their winning streak to a program record 14.
"We went through the conference for the second year in a row without losing a set and we're going to hang another conference banner," Riggan said. "I'm already looking forward to Johnson and Wales (in Charlotte on Thursday). It's going to be competitive."
Leading 6-4 in the opening set, Wallace was on the serving line for eight points in a row while also managing to record three assists and an ace. The Flyers breezed to the victory with Kaitlyn Lisenby leading the team in kills for the third match in a row with 14.
The Flyers were not as sharp in the concluding match. Tee'Ashia Lilly logged a team-high 10 kills. In the two matches she had an efficient 16 kills in 25 attacks and moved up to sixth place in the NJCAA Division III stats with a hitting percentage of .390.
McKenzie, who Wallace has known for a long time from volleyball camps, was an assistant coach, and Brown was a student assistant, for the Flyers a year ago. The pushes and dumps Wallace often employs for kills were also a trademark of McKenzie's game at both Pinecrest and Sandhills.
"She definitely helped me with that," Wallace says. "She was a great setter and she helped me at those camps. Last year we'd joke about who was better. We are both very competitive."
Wallace moved up to fourth place in the nation in assists per set (9.51) and sixth in total assists (713). Riggan says that Wallace is a unique player with a tremendous drive.
"Abby is extremely athletic and sees the court really well," the coach says. "She has a great serve, she plays the ball up and she moves to the ball really well. In one of the sets she led the team with four kills.
"She comes from an athletic family and she's weapon no matter where she is on the court."
Brown still holds the team single-match record for assists (51) and the single season mark (852) both set in 2015. In between matches, Sandhills track and field coach Jef Moody was on the court as All-Americans Tyrese Kelly , Daniel Taylor and Alex Worley were honored. Kelly won the high jump, long jump and triple jump at the 2018 NJCAA Division III National Championships held in Utica, New York in May. Taylor was first in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter (meet record time) runs. Worley won the decathlon.
Each one received a championship ring. In the first year of track and field at Sandhills, the men's squad finished 5th and the Lady Flyers ninth in fields of 23 teams for both.