Through the short preseason slate, first-year coach Sarah Haney noticed a trend in how her Triton volleyball team played.
ERWIN — Through the short preseason slate, first-year coach Sarah Haney noticed a trend in how her Triton volleyball team played.
Strong starts. Lackluster interludes. Strong finishes.
It’s a pattern that popped up again during the regular-season opener this week, leaving the former Lady Hawks assistant eager to make corrections as her debut campaign progresses.
“Right now, we just got to work on that in-between ... even if we have to even it out instead of frontloading it," Haney said following the five-set home win over Lee County on Tuesday, marking her first victory as a head coach.
The four-year assistant under Wendy Simmons, who officially retired Aug. 1 after 27 years leading Triton, is encouraged by the flashes shown by her young group.
Five returners are back in the fray from last year's 11-14 club that went on a hot streak to close the season and qualified for the state playoffs.
Of those, sophomore middle blocker Chyna Massey and junior hitter Olivia Godwin have been key igniters to the team's strong starts.
“Starting off, especially with Chyna on the front row, is very crucial to get those first passes and get those kills in because that’s a momentum changer. And once they get that first point, they can build off of that,” Haney said.
Massey's springy athleticism was on full display Tuesday, using stuffs at the net and forceful spikes to help Triton (1-0) own the first set.
Godwin showed her all-around game early, including a pair of aces in the second that helped spark a 25-5 rout.
“So, Olivia and Chyna as my outside and my middle, we rely on them to get some good kills to start with. Because if they get started, we have two more (players) coming in right behind them. ... they feed off what (Massey and Godwin) started.”
Haney's group gets longer when it subs in sophomore Mary Charlotte Pope and junior standout Carleigh Hemby.
Hemby was a second-team All-Record selection in 2021, emerging as the team's go-to swinger and notching over 200 kills.
“She can serve the ball, she can play defense when needed. And then, we get her on the front row and she puts it down,” Haney said of the versatile 6-foot-1 athlete.
Hemby thrived in a closing role against the Lady Yellow Jackets, swatting back-to-back blocks – followed by a nifty kill – in the middle of the fifth set to halt the visitors' comeback attempt.
Freshman setter Sydney Bradham, who steps into the role vacated by her older sister Reagan, also drew praise after creating offensive opportunities while also leaving with a couple of aces.
Meanwhile, the team's lone senior, Ava Blackmon, is tasked with fortifying the back row after longtime Lady Hawks libero Makayla Norris graduated this past spring.
Overall, Haney is content to start 1-0 after enduring five straight losses to open last fall's slate. But she wants the collective energy to resemble Tuesday's opening stretch.
“They did exactly what I wanted them to do. They had good serve receive, they had good defense and then they hit the ball,” she said.
“As long as they can do what they did in those first two (sets) all season, we’ll be good.”
Triton continues its non-league schedule Wednesday, hosting Midway, before taking on Cape Fear on Thursday.
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.