The bar for East Lincoln Lady Mustangsâ€™ volleyball is set high. For three consecutive years the Lady Mustangs have garnered a Big South 3A Conference title.
Last year, in his second year at East Lincoln, head coach JT Spanos guided the Lady Mustangs to a 18-8 record before losing in the first round to East Henderson.
But this year proves to be a challenge, with no varsity players returning. Jessica Glenn and Krista Abernathy were moved up at the end of year to varsity.
Spanos, who has spent the past 13 years of his life coaching volleyball, believes their situation could be a great opportunity for his team.
â€œRight now everybody is varsity until I move them down to JV, usually itâ€™s the other way around where everybody is JV until I move them up,â€ he said.
Just because the team is riddled with youth and very limited previous varsity court time, Spanos still has the goal of reaching 20 wins this season.
â€œLast year my goal for the school was to get 20 wins and to get to the second round of the State Playoffs and we did not do that. Iâ€™m expecting for those girls to compete for playing time in every single practice, so thatâ€™s going to make us a better team,â€ he said.
The coach knows that losing so many players mainly to graduation will place a bullâ€™s eye on his team.
â€œWe are very young and very inexperienced, but I think we can compete for a conference title again. Everybody will be gunning for us this year in the county and in the Big South.â€
The road will be a challenging one with the Lady Mustangs opening the season August 16th in a home match against the Mooresville Lady Blue Devils, who narrowly missed a 3A title last year.
â€œWe open up with Mooresville who was two points away from beating Fred T. Foard last year. They are going to be the team to beat in 3A. Iâ€™m looking forward to it, but weâ€™re going to have to be ready for them,â€
Glenn, an outside hitter and Abernathy, a setter, will be among the young ladies competing for playing time. Spanos feels that could very well work in the teamâ€™s favor.
â€œWithout competition there is more of a tendency to get complacent. Weâ€™re going to go out and play volleyball to the very best of our ability and whatever happens, happens,â€ he said.
â€œMy goal is to go further than we did the previous yearâ€” every year,â€ Spanos said.
Ali Fisher, an outside hitter and a pair of ninth-graders Lauren Sharpe and Elizabeth Covington are also expected to contribute.
â€œThey all have a long way to go still-wise, but have the potential to be very good volleyball players.â€by John Mark Brooks