Adrienne Core felt a double dose of pre-game jitters as Middle Creek’s volleyball team opened its 2014 season Tuesday in the Mustangs’ gym.
She wanted to quickly gain her players’ confidence as she slid from her JV role to the first seat on the varsity bench in her debut as the new head coach.
Adding to her anxiety was facing Triton, her alma mater, and her mentor, Wendy Gaines.
Yes, that Wendy Gaines, who was honored as the NCHSAA Female Coach of the Year. The honor was for last school year for all sports.
Core, who knows something about keeping outward poise as the 2010 Miss North Carolina, succeeded on all levels.
First, Middle Creek (1-0) claimed a 3-2 victory over Triton (1-2) in five games. The scores were 23-25, 25-9, 19-25, 25-16, 15-8.
Second, Middle Creek junior middle blocker Sydney Sozio, who led team with 13 kills, praised her new coach.
“She has brought new intensity to the program,” Sozio said. “We were all familiar with her as the JV coach, and she has done a good job taking over.”
Third, Gaines was impressed.
“She’s doing very well as a coach,” Gaines aid. “Her team has a lot more power than I do, and it’s hard to stop a team with that many hitters at the net.”
Core first learned volleyball from Gaines in middle school and then through her high school career.
“I wanted so much to show her how well my team could play,” Core said. “Everything I know I learned from her. I wanted to show her I’m teaching my team what I learned from her.”
In Game 5, Middle Creek trailed 2-1 when Sozio moved to the back role to serve. Her serves ran off eight straight points to build a lead that Triton never threatened. She had back-to-back aces for a 5-2 lead during the eight-point streak.
Core hoped to impress her mentor, while Sozio hopes college recruiters are taking notice.
“I’ve been working on my serve and playing the back row,” she said. “I want to show any college recruiters I can play other positions. Other middles can only play one position.”
One concern was Middle Creek’s inconsistent play as evidenced by a 25-9 bounce-back win in Game 2 and a quick-strike for a big lead in Game 5.
“I talked to my girls about that afterward,” Core said. “We have to work on consistency. When we see teams in our conference (Southwest Wake) at the level we’re going to be playing, there is no room to ever get down.”
Gaines said she scheduled Middle Creek and other Southwest Wake schools to strengthen her team’s play in the preseason.
“We wanted the competition from this conference,” she said. “We’ll take our lumps early if it helps us later in the season.”