HENDERSON — Vance Charter’s volleyball team is going through its first rebuild in program history following the graduation of a talented senior class over the summer.
The rebuilding process also includes a brand new head coach, Anna Stallings, who is eager to carry on the efficient legacy of Vance Charter’s prior coach in, William Hoyle, and the first senior class.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity to coach at Vance Charter,” Stallings said. “I have so much passion for the sport of volleyball and I love seeing players grow their knowledge and skills for the game. My goal is to create a volleyball program that empowers student athletes to be their best self both on and off the court.”
When Stallings was playing collegiate volleyball at Meredith College, she began to take an interest in teaching others about the game, which motivated her to begin leading club programs and take part in numerous coaching camps and clinics during her sophomore year.
Among the programs that Stallings coached were the N.C. Elite Volleyball Club and Jammers Volleyball Club South Granville. She most recently served as the director of coaching with the Carolina Explosion Volleyball Club before taking over as head coach for Vance Charter’s program during the summer.
Stallings is inheriting a team from Hoyle that will be without nine seniors from Vance Charter’s 20-5 squad from 2019-20, including the core of Nadia Simmons, Skylar Aiken, Margaret Bobbitt and Jenna Radford.
Bobbitt led Vance Charter in kills last season with 217, while Simmons and Aiken followed closely behind her with 184 and 170, respectively. Aiken was the team leader in digs with 392 while Simmons was second on the team in that category, totaling 349.
Radford shined as a team player for Vance Charter by constantly moving around the floor to put her team in a great position to score points. She capped off her final season with 361 assists, allowing her to finish with over 1,000 during her successful high school career.
The loss of several offensive playmakers is not the only challenge Stallings has to deal with during her first season, as she and the rest of the coaches affiliated with the N.C. High School Athletic Association monitor the ongoing situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in North Carolina.
Stallings is unsure of how the 2020-21 season will play out from a logistical standpoint, but she intends to keep abiding by all of the guidelines enacted by Gov. Roy Cooper and the NCHSAA to ensure that she, her players and the limited number of fans in attendance are protected from possible exposure to COVID-19.
“We have been following all protocols by screening student athletes every day for symptoms, exposure and temperatures,” Stallings said. “Masks are worn and social distancing is used when masks were off for water and physical activity prior to the mask mandate during play. Everyone washes their hands before and after play, and the balls are cleaned as often as possible.”
With the NCHSAA mandating masks for competitions, Stallings said that communication will be an imperative part of Vance Charter’s success this year, but she believes that her players have responded to the adjustment adequately through their first few games.
Even though she does not have last season’s at her disposal, Stallings knows that Vance Charter has the potential to win many games with players such as junior Abby Green, who had 41 total blocks last year, and senior Savannah Ayscue, who was second in assists with 249.
While Stallings does not expect everything to go perfect for Vance Charter in her first year, she is confident her team can win plenty of games and go far in the NCHSAA 1A playoffs as long as they focus on what is in front of them and make the necessary commitment.
“I have high expectations for our program this season,” Stallings said. “I foresee us being very competitive and look forward to seeing our program grow, but we are just happy to be able to play, even if it has to be in a mask.”
Following their second and final matchup with Oxford Prep on Tuesday evening, Vance Charter will get a long break until Dec. 9 when the Knights host Henderson Collegiate at 4:30 p.m.