HENDERSON — A brand new season of volleyball is set to begin in a matter of days for Crossroads Christian, which is looking to rebound from a dismal 2-12 record in 2019 that saw them score points in four of their 14 games.
Although COVID-19 restrictions have presented obstacles for schools to overcome in preparation for fall sports, head coach Greg Hardy said he believes that those adjustments have made his players more confident and prepared as the season-opener draws closer.
“We had a great summer,” Hardy said. “The COVID-19 restrictions helped us a lot because I was able to go back to the basics and work on several different concepts without the ball interfering. The girls really bought into that and we had several great practices that have helped get us to where we are right now.”
With Hardy unable to initially focus on conditioning due to social distancing guidelines implemented by the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, he instead had his players work on their foot movement, sliding, balance and how to properly distribute the ball between teammates.
Hardy said that it is easy for the fundamentals to be glossed over in offseason workouts when preparing for a season, but now that his team has had time to fully embrace those aspects of the game, he believes that knowledge will translate into both chemistry and efficiency as CCS attempts to pursue a Mid-Carolina conference title.
“Nobody is brand new to the sport, so they all understood the game itself,” Hardy said. “Coming out of summer, normally you have about a week and a half before you’re playing games, but now we’ve been practicing as a full team for three weeks. We’re tired of playing each other and we’re ready for our competition.”
Hardy added that the return of senior captain Justice Simmons should provide the program a much needed boost after she was forced to miss the entire 2019 season due to a knee injury.
Joining Simmons as senior team captains will be Hope Hollingsworth and Anna Parker, the latter of which recorded 68 kills and 22 aces during her junior campaign with CCS and is expected to serve as one of the team’s primary outside hitters in 2020.
Like Hardy, Parker believes that the unorthodox practice sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic have allowed CCS to grow as a team, but she also personally focused on her own physical and mental stamina during the summer to ensure that she remains efficient through three or more sets.
“I’ve been trying to work on going longer distances,” Parker said. “I don’t want to be super tired after a certain amount of time, and I want to play the whole game. I’ve also been trying to get some harder hits in.”
With 2020 being her last season in a CCS uniform, Parker wants to put together a stellar year for her team both on and off the court so that she can help lead them to a winning record and continue her career at the collegiate level after graduating from the school.
“I want to be a good leader,” Parker said. “I know that I also need to start thinking about what I’m going to do with volleyball in college. Hopefully I can take that next step and turn this into something bigger.”
Hardy knows that the leadership of Parker, Simmons and Hollingsworth, combined with other talented pieces like sophomore Rebecca Kate Short, will make CCS more competitive than in years past, but he said that the main objective for the 2020 season is to keep building on the program’s culture in his third year as the coach.
Hardy added that having his daughter Stephanie, who was a former volleyball player herself, interact with the team this year has provided a much-needed boost to everyone’s mentality, and he hopes that the overall positive atmosphere within the program will translate into numerous winning seasons for CCS this decade regardless of how the 2020 season turns out.
“Crossroads hasn’t had a winning record the last 10 years,” Hardy said. “We want that winning record, but we’re going to play each game one at a time, We don’t want to lose anything, but we intend to play a pure, strong game that has us leaving the court knowing that we did our best. I think we’re going to see some success this year.”
CCS will play their first game of the season on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. when they travel to face Southside Christian, who defeated them in the only meeting between the two programs last year by a score of 3-1.