LOCKHART — Although the Lockhart Middle School volleyball team has reached the end of its championship tournament play, the team has had its most exceptional season in years.
At the beginning of this year’s season, the Lockhart volleyball team had only two returning players while going to a summer camp at Dorman High School in Spartanburg. The team lost six 8th graders, of which Coach Tracie Campbell said almost all were part of the rotation.
“It wasn’t until the last day of camp that I found out our third returning player would be coming back to Lockhart and not moving,” Campbell said. “That made things a little better.”
Campbell said the team only practiced a few times during the summer due to the gym floor being repainted.
“Brian Childers — Brina Childers’ dad — was faithful and helped out in every practice,” Campbell said. “It’s hard to spend the time needed on all the players with just one person.”
The team scrimmaged early in the season, and after that, Campbell said Brina Childers, Gracie Crocker, and Kaitlin Parks were returning starters. Alexis Vaughn — an 8th grader — Macayla Sinclair and Maria Piefke finished up the starting line-up.
“Our biggest struggle in the beginning was getting the ball across the net,” Campbell said. “Some of the ones who could were very inconsistent. We also had to work hard on our passing. As the weeks went by, I saw my team begin to gel and our weaknesses began to get stronger.”
Campbell said her girls worked very hard and were a great group which was motivated to win. The team roster included Gracie Crocker, Kaitlin Parks, Briana Childers, Katie Blackmon, Alexis Vaughan, Abby Brannon, Hailee Robbins, Bethany Bishop, Cierra Goldman, Macayla Sinclair, Halle Brannon, Maria Piefke and Chloe Loftis. The team went 11-1 for the season.
“There was no one player that dominated the court,” Campbell said. “They played together as a team. There was no ‘girl drama’ that can sometimes build up, which was a plus!”
Campbell said her strong servers from the beginning were Kaitlin Parks and Brina Childers. She also said Macayla Sinclair, Gracie Crocker and Maria Piefke came around and were big game-changers. Campbell said Abby Brannon was the most consistent server she had, and Campbell nicknamed Brannon “Money.”
“I told her I could write a check on her any time!” Campbell said.
Campbell pointed out that Katie Blackmon subbed in on the front row as a hitter and played well.
“Our parents fed the girls before every home and away match,” Campbell said. “We needed all the extra energy we could get.”
The Red Devils’ first match of the season was against Pacolet, and that first match set the pace for the season.
“We had never beaten them before, so once we did, it felt great,” Campbell said. “As we won match after match, defeating Pacolet twice, EP Todd twice, and winning our first tournament match — something we had never done before.
“As the season slowly came to an end, I really thought that my girls were getting tired and the perfect season would not continue, but that never happened,” Campbell said. “They stayed focused.”
“As Pastor Robert Scott said in one of our devotionals, we as Christians need to stay focused on Jesus,” Campbell said. “He then put it to play in volleyball. He told the girls that no matter what was going on — who was in the stands or what the score was — they had to stay focused on the task at hand. Winning!”
Campbell said she believes Scott is right — on and off the court.
“If we stay focused on Jesus — win or lose — we are still winners,” she said. “Volleyball is just a sport — something temporary — but our relationship with Jesus Christ is something that is eternal!”
Campbell said she does not think the girls understood what they had accomplished after their win at Jonesville — the perfect season, the Foothills Division II Championship, and a banner to be hung in the school gym reminding everyone of their accomplishments.
The last year that a girls’ region banner was hung in the Lockhart gym was 1986. Campbell said she, herself, and Gina Childers — Brina’s mother — were on the track team that year.
“So this banner means so much more to us than words can say,” Campbell said.
Campbell said she wants her players to remember what they overcame, how they played as a team, and that they reaped a harvest for a season that will always be part of history at Lockhart School.
“I was blessed to have such a great group of girls,” Campbell said. “They are the best! They love each other and love the game.”
Campbell said even though the team lost its second-round tournament match at Chapman High School, the year was an awesome one. She said she is thankful for all the parents, the 7th man in the stands (faithful fans who were at home and away games), Brian Childers and Dale Palmer.
“We couldn’t have done it without the love and support of everyone involved,” Childers said.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.