Marvin Ridge will be well tested when the Mavericks begin defense of their 2016 Southern Carolina Conference volleyball championship later this season.
In addition to tackling a competitive nonconference schedule against teams from the state, Marvin Ridge will also serve it up against some of the best in Florida when the Mavericks take part in the Battle at the Beach next month in Venice Beach, Fla.
Marvin Ridge, which was 28-4 overall and 10-0 in the SCC last season, will be in a field with 14 teams from Florida Sept. 8-9. Marvin Ridge was scheduled to play in the tourney last fall but Hurricane Matthew disrupted the Mavericks’ travel plans and the team couldn’t make the trip.
“That is my hometown and that is where I went to school at,” said Marvin Ridge head coach Brook Hammers. “They have a good program and there will be a lot of strong teams from the state of Florida in the tournament. Hopefully, we can show them what North Carolina volleyball is all about.”
Hammers said the SCC is as strong as ever and she hopes that a tough nonconference schedule will prepare the Mavericks for the rigors of league play.
“We want to work together as a team,” Hammers said. “We want to go through conference play undefeated, but we are going to face a lot of good teams in our conference this year. We hopefully will get where we ultimately want to be and that is at the state championship.”
Senior Carly Owens is one of the Mavericks top returnees after recording 362 kills, 268 digs, 50 aces and 32 blocks as a junior last fall. Caitlyn Kiker is another top returnee (263 kills, 58 blocks) but the senior is currently out with a knee injury. Hammers said she is hoping that Kiker can return in time to play in Florida.
“Carly has grown not only as an athlete but as a leader that last several years,” Hammer said. “She is probably one of the best athletes that I have ever coached. She has worked really hard and she is going to be a big asset for us.
“Caitlyn has not been on the court yet, but she is a captain and she is one of the best leaders I have had. She not only leads on the court but she leads off the court. We hope to get her back by Florida, but we are not going to rush her.”
Hammers said juniors Olivia Headrick and Maggie Young have stepped up at middle hitter with Kiker sidelined.
Other top returnees include senior Noelle Soldo and juniors Lexi Thomas and Adrianna Jordan. Soldo has committed to play volleyball at Western Carolina.
“Noelle has had a huge impact,” Hammers said. “Adrianna has been setting since she was a freshman and she has really developed the last couple of years. Lexi has been starting since she was a freshman and she worked really hard in the offseason.”