BOONE — If the only skill Brynne Gould gave to the Watauga volleyball team was offense, she would be good enough to be named all-Northwestern Conference.
The 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter led the Pioneers’ offense with 320 kills, nearly 100 more than the next Watauga player. Gould’s hitting percentage was .303, which is similar to a baseball player hitting around .400.
She also was one of Watauga’s better servers, having landed 36 serving aces, 90.8 percent of her serve attempts and scoring 127 points.
Offense isn’t the only skill Gould brings to the table. She also plays along the backline, which is not always common for outside hitters. Yet, Gould finished with the season with 198 digs, which was second to libero Sydney Farthing, whose job was to play on the back line.
Gould proved her value during the state 4-A playoffs when she had 16 kills in a 3-0 loss to Reagan, the top seed in the western 4-A regional. It was why she was named the Watauga High Athlete of the Week.
The award is sponsored by Five Guys Burgers and Fries and by the Watauga Democrat.
Watauga finished the season with an overall record of 16-7, and finished in third place in the Northwestern Conference with a 10-4 mark. The Pioneers won seven of their final eight matches before falling to Reagan in the third round of the playoffs.
“I really loved how we came together as a family,” Gould said of the 2015 season. “There was no drama this season and that’s never really happened before. We were all just really close and became friends. Not just our skills, but our friendships came out this season.”
Watauga had its chances against Reagan, especially in the first set. The Pioneers went toe-to-toe with the Raiders, but ended up falling 25-21. The Mountaineers lost their next two sets 25-20, 25-17.
It was a tough loss for the Pioneers to take, as any loss in the playoffs is. Gould felt the Pioneers could have beaten Reagan, but made mistakes at key times that allowed the Raiders to surge in front in each game and to the overall win.
“We had a lot of energy when we came out,” Gould said. “We thought we were going to fight hard and that’s what we did the entire match. We just kind of lost it at the end. Reagan was a really good team. They were hitting around our blocks, so our passes were very difficult.”
Things had been going well for the Pioneers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Watauga swept West Forsyth in the first round 25-8, 25-14 and 25-15, and then chalked up a 25-14 25-22 25-20 win over Pinecrest.
Gould has been a go-to player for the Pioneers since her sophomore season when she was elevated to the varsity.
Her timing on the kills combined with her outstanding jumping ability gives her the advantage over players who are similar to her in height, and is an equalizer whenever she sees blockers who are taller.
“I liked to step up as a leader this season,” Gould said. “My goal was to come back this year and be a leader and bring a lot to the table.”
Gould is one of eight juniors on the Pioneers’ roster. Watauga loses Farthing and backline player Abby Hicks to graduation, but returns both setters Savannah Rushing and Reina Marze, who are both experienced juniors.
They also return outside hitters Olivia Williamson and middle blockers Emma Clark and Jada Wilson. Watauga finished third in the NWC to Hickory and Foard, but Gould is optimistic that Watauga can return in 2016 and improve on their 2015 season.
“We should be a really strong team next year,” Gould said.
Gould said the Pioneers were young at the start of the season, but gained experience as the year went on.
“At the beginning, we were a really young team,” Gould said. “But, we had a lot of potential. Everybody kept improving throughout the season and we really came together as a team and as individuals.”
She credited Farthing and Hicks, especially their leadership, as a reason for the Pioneers improving as a team.
“Our seniors stayed with it and kept us all together,” Gould said. “That’s what we really needed this season.”
Gould will play club volleyball until the girls’ soccer season begins. She was also a starter as a sophomore on the Watauga girls’ soccer team in 2014, and has received some attention from colleges already after playing club soccer.
Her 4.6 grade point average will make it easier for her to get into virtually any college she wants. She would like to play either volleyball or soccer in college if possible if the situation is right.
“I would like to play a sport in college, as long as it’s the right school,” Gould said. “Right now, I’m getting more offers for soccer than volleyball. I’m hoping to get more offers for volleyball, but if I could play either one, I’d be happy.”