GARNER — It would make for a nice ending to a nice story.
When the Garner Trojans volleyball team swept Harnett Central 25-15, 25-9, 25-16 on Senior Night, it capped off an impressive perfect regular season in the Greater Neuse River Conference.
The win, the 48th consecutive one in conference play since the Trojans (18-3 overall, 14-0 conference) last lost a league game to Harnett Central in the tournament championship on October 21, 2009, capped off an unprecedented stroll through the conference in which the Trojans didn’t lose a single set.
But, for the Trojans, the story isn’t quite finished for a team that set out at the beginning of the season with many goals to accomplish.
Some still need to get crossed off.
“We’re trying to get to that next level,” Garner coach Jason Boyette said. “For us, that next level is the third round because it’s never happened before in Garner volleyball history.”
The Trojans, despite dominating the GNRC the past four seasons and posting a combined 72-19 record during that span, have yet to find that same level of success in the state playoffs.
Back-to-back second round defeats to Southern Pines Pinecrest have left a bitter taste in the mouths of the Trojans who have used the 3-2 loss last season as motivation for this year.
Even with all the impressive numbers Garner has posted this season, its three senior leaders of Elena Mast, Kristen Powell and Madison Stewart point to something that’s tough to quantify as being the reason the Trojans could make history this time around.
“This year our chemistry has been great,” Stewart said. “All the girls really get along well and when you have that—it adds to the way we play.”
Mast thinks this year’s team is the most talented of any she’s ever played on but also emphasized how the connections formed between teammates has helped lead to great play on the court.
“We really play from the heart together, we really have good communication and we love each other on and off the court,” echoed Mast. “I think that’s helped us so far this year and really helped us to succeed the way we have done the past three to four years.”
On Thursday night, the passing of setter Courtney Weathersbee helped the Trojans cruise into the GNRC Tournament with the 3-0 win. The junior totaled 30 assists on the night with many of them going to Powell (24 kills) and Kaasha Jefferies (12 kills).
To make a deep run in the state 4A playoffs where three undefeated teams lay in waiting (Leesville Road, Pine Forest and Scotland), four-year varsity player Powell believes the offense will have to step it up a notch.
“Our passing is awesome and our defense is great,” Powell said. “We’re just trying to work on our offense. We’re good at keeping the ball in but we need to work on power plays and scoring points on our offense.”
The work ethic and focus displayed by the Trojans all season long seems to suggest that Garner will do whatever it takes to make school history.
“They’ve done everything I’ve asked for all year—the whole team,” boasted Boyette. “We’ve got a few more goals we’re trying to get to but they’ve done everything I’ve asked them to and then some.
“I told them we want to play a few more home games for these seniors.”
And that would make for an even better ending.