GATESVILLE — A rebuilding year for the Vance Charter women’s basketball team came to an end on Tuesday evening with a 44-33 loss to Gates County in the opening round of the NCHSAA 1A Playoffs.

Head coach Brian Howard had hoped that Vance Charter would be able to pull off another deep playoff run after showing promise only one year following the departure of the school’s first senior class, but said that an overall lack of cohesion prevented them from challenging Gates County for the win.

“We weren’t prepared for the moment,” Howard said. “We’re a young team, and we went on the road and played in a hostile environment, so I think we just got a little bit overwhelmed. Our inexperience definitely showed.”

Howard ended his second season at Vance Charter with a 7-3 record, but he affirmed that there were many positive developments that came from the current roster in a year where the COVID-19 pandemic presented endless challenges for everyone on the roster.

“I think everybody understands what their role is going forward,” Howard said. “They can grow within that role or stay stagnant, and the biggest point of emphasis is that we’re returning every player that was on the roster this year, so we’ll have a lot of experience next year.”

Howard added that Vance Charter would not have won as many games without the efficiency of sophomore Peyton Pittard on defense, whom Howard believes will be a valuable asset for the program as they attempt to correct their issues from the 2020-21 season.

Another positive for Howard was the development of juniors Kayla and Kyiah Simmons underneath the rim. Kayla averaged 10 points per game and led her team with 12.9 rebounds a game, while Kyiah was second on the team in rebounding with 9.3 a game.

Howard is confident that the Simmons sisters will continue to evolve as leaders as they enter their senior year at Vance Charter, but he affirmed that everyone on the team needs to put in the necessary commitment over the offseason to remain an integral part of the plan toward building a championship women’s basketball team at the school

“Next year I expect us to have more competition at certain spots,” Howard said. “We have some good middle schoolers coming up, so there will be some competition for starting spots. Even if they don’t end up starting, we’ll get some much needed depth, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Even though Vance Charter was knocked out of the first round of the NCHSAA 1A Playoffs, Howard commended his players for all the hard work they put in during the pandemic and hopes that more time together over the offseason will yield positive results next year.