BOONE — Watauga’s volleyball team, as a group, knows the record they’ve posted lately.
The Pioneers begin their quest for a fourth-straight Northwestern Conference championship with tryouts July 1. Watauga rolled through the 2018 season with a 25-match winning streak before falling to eventual state 3-A champion Marvin Ridge in the fourth round of the playoffs.
The Pioneers go into the 2019 season riding a 43-match winning streak in Northwestern Conference showdowns. Not surprisingly, Watauga has won three straight NWC championships and has reached a minimum of the third round of the state playoffs each year.
But, Watauga coach Kris Hagaman said the Pioneers are not concerned about winning streaks as much as improvement going into the season, which begins Aug. 27 at Statesville.
Hagaman said the returning players have not spoken about the conference winning streak and are more worried about improvement.
“We really haven’t talked about that,” Hagaman said. “We’re more focused on getting better every time we’re in the gym.”
Watauga returns several key players from its 2018 edition, but also loses setter Grace Hayes and defensive specialist Jasmine VanDyke to graduation.
“We’re looking at all of our options,” Hagaman said of finding a new setter. “We’re trying to figure it out. We won’t have tryouts until Thursday, and at that point in time we’ll decide who will take on that role, or who will work towards taking that role.”
Hayes takes her 874 assists to college with her, where she will play at Bridgewater College. She didn’t take the Pioneers’ top two scorers with her.
Brooke Byrd and Rebecca Farthing return for their senior seasons as four-year starters. Farthing, who initially committed to playing collegiately at App State, but changed her mind and will play at Georgia Southern, led the Pioneers with 356 kills on 773 attempts in 2018.
Byrd was second on the Pioneers’ offense with 294 kills on 677 attempts.
Watauga returns other weapons. Middle blocker Tegan Allan was third on the 2018 team with 159 kills. Carolyn Murray was fourth on the team with 126 kills and Emma Brown had 54 kills. Byrd, Farthing, Allan, Murray and Brown are all rising seniors.
“There are a lot of quality players who come out for the team from freshmen on up to the seniors,” Hagaman said. “We’ll have a really tough tryout.”