Up and over

Oxford Prep volleyball player Kadence Woodlief (1) knocks the ball over Crossroads Christian’s Rebecca Kate Short (17) while teammates Holly Currin (2) and Delaney Lowery (7) look on during the Griffins’ 3-0 victory in the first day of the Vanco Outdoor Classic on Friday. The win improved Oxford Prep’s record to 9-0 on the year.

HENDERSON — A 9-0 record was something that Oxford Prep head volleyball coach April Abbott did not think was possible four years ago.

But the program reached that goal during the first day of the Vanco Outdoor Classic at Kerr-Vance Academy on Friday by taking advantage of several mistakes from Crossroads Christian to obtain a dominant 3-0 victory.

Abbott has worked to put Oxford Prep in a position to excel in volleyball and is thrilled that all of her players’ hard work before and during the season is paying off with victories.

“They did fantastic,” Abbott said. “Every single one of my players touched the floor today and they still finished so strong. The girls want to go undefeated, but honestly I don’t care what the scoreboard says. I want to keep seeing improvements from the girls.”

Following an inconsistent 9-14 season in 2019, Oxford Prep only managed to play nine games during the COVID-hampered 2020 campaign. They ended up winning just two of those contests, one of which came via a Henderson Collegiate forfeit.

With her players having much more time to prepare for this year, Abbott was confident the cohesion her players displayed in practice could turn Oxford Prep into a team capable of contending for the Triangle North 1A Conference title.

She believes her players are strong when it comes to communication and making plays, and said their confidence has produced a competitive mindset throughout the team.

Oxford Prep’s efficiency continued against a Crossroads program that’s on a similar path. Head coach Cammy Simmons had led the Colts to a 5-2 record in her first year after Crossroads failed to win a single game in 2020.

Despite their strong start, Simmons knew that Crossroads needed to fix several issues before starting conference play, and that the Colts’ performance against Oxford Prep on Friday only reinforced those pressing needs.

“There was a lack of communication overall,” Simmons said. “I know we had to mix some things up with [Hailey] Grissom out for a week, but we weren’t playing cohesively like we normally do. We had some good things, but we just have to figure out how to put all of it together.”

Other than allowing Crossroads to finish strong at the end of the third and final set, Abbott had no major complaints from Friday’s victory and wants her players to enjoy the moment as they prepare for more tough opponents.

Abbott knows there are many variables to consider when trying to pursue a perfect volleyball season, but she said that the idea of Oxford Prep being one of the better volleyball programs across the region is worth celebrating on its own.

“I hope we keep this going,” Abbott said. “It’s been a long four years of trying to change mindsets and I’ve seen everything click this season. I’ve heard the conversations and everything is now paying off.”

Following the Vanco Outdoor Classic, Oxford Prep will take part in its second conference game at Eno River on Monday, while Crossroads will try to regroup against Southside Christian on Tuesday.

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840