A 19-match winning streak, and consecutive Region X regular season and tournament titles, were among the accomplishments the Sandhills Community College volleyball team celebrated at a banquet recently held at the Dempsey Student Center.
"This was probably the most talented team we've ever had," Coach Alicia Riggan said. "What a two years these sophomores have had."
The seven sophomores and three freshmen followed up a 27-6 season a year ago by finishing 24-5. The Lady Flyers were 22-0 in the process of winning the back-to-back conference titles without losing a single set. The five losses were the least in the 11-year history of the program.
For the second year in a row the Flyers came within one win in the district tournament from advancing to the NJCAA Division III National Championship tournament in Rochester, Minn.
The sophomores recognized included the three team captains Rachael Mashburn, Tee'Ashia Lilly and Abby Wallace, as well as Kiana Brown, Chelsea Green, Kaitlyn Lisenby and Jordan Ward. Shaedyn Housh, Lilli Inman and Ivy Futrell were the freshmen honored.
Wallace was the Region X Player of the Year and as the setter set Sandhills single season and career records in assists. Middle blocker Lilly, outside hitters Lisenby and Inman, and libero Housh were All-Region X first-team selections.
Riggan also announced the team awards: Most Improved, Ward, MVP Offense, Lilly, MVP Defense, Housh and Flyer Award, Mashburn.
Wallace, who played for legendary coach Barbra Foxx at Pinecrest High School, is one of several sophomores who would like to continue playing volleyball at a four-year college.
"I'm thankful for both of the programs because without them I wouldn't be where I am," she said after the banquet. "Playing at Sandhills was one of my best decisions because I wasn't 100 per cent sure I was going to play after high school."
Lilly replaced All-American Paige Garner at middle blocker and finished the season with a kill percentage of .370 that was seventh best in the nation and second in Flyer history to her former college and North Moore High School teammate.
"My coaches pushed me to play better and lead better as a captain," she said. "I've grown so much. I'm really looking for an opportunity to keep playing volleyball because I have so much love for the game."
Finishing up her 10th season as the Flyers' coach, Riggan (195-70) was assisted by Kristin Hylton and Jacob Marley, and athletic trainer Stefanie Mansfield. Photos taken by Donna Ford were projected on a screen throughout the evening. Other supporters of the volleyball program were recognized.
The Flyers were ranked No. 10 in the final NJCAA poll. Owens CC (OH), who defeated the Flyers in the district tournament, went on to win the national championship.
Riggan made a point of letting the sophomores know she will always consider them to be a part of the Lady Flyer family.
"I still keep in touch with my two coaches from college," she said. "I just want to stay connected and hope they feel the same sense of pride I feel about the program.
"I want them to feel that it wasn't just volleyball, but we created a culture as a family. I always say when we sign a girl, 'welcome to the Flyer family'."