LAURINBURG — After a successful first season under head coach Mallory Wheeler, the Lady Scots appeared poised to make a return to the top of the Three Rivers Conference.
It was announced in the off-season that Wheeler would be taking this year off from coaching and assistant coach Mallarie Snow will take the reigns as interim coach. Snow already serves as the head coach for the Lady Scots basketball team.
”During my time at St. Pauls I did volleyball and basketball,” Snow said. “Mallory and I have the same mindset and she trusts me as interim this year.”
The Lady Scots finished 15-11 overall and 8-6 for third in the conference behind Richmond (14-0) and Pinecrest (10-4). The Lady Scots advanced to the first round of the 4A state playoffs, falling to Myers Park.
Graduation hit the Lady Scots hard as they lost seven players — Ashley McGugan, Kandon Luquer, Macie Gibson, Nahir Pegues, Mason Roberts and Daizha McMillan.
McGugan, Luquer and Pegues were the teams leading hitters and Gibson was the Lady Scots leading defender.
All is not lost, the Lady Scots return six girls that saw significant playing time last season including Carleigh Carter, Sarah Eury, Skylar York, Abby Quick, Beatrice Eddy and Nikki Strickland.
“Sarah is going to be our go-to,” said Snow. “She’s a great setter with beautiful hands and she’s really taking on a leadership role. Skylar has a huge presence in the middle, her height alone scares people. Carleigh’s power and accuracy with her hitting from the outside is going to be an asset. Abby is going to be our libero.”
Eury led the team, far and away, in assists last season with 617, averaging seven per set. Eury and Quick will be key for the Lady Scots behind the line as the team’s top two servers. Eury tallied 67 aces last season and Quick had 64.
“Watching them this week our potential is pretty high,” said Snow. “We could be top two or three in the conference. Very excited for this year. Once we gel we have the players to make us top three.”
Richmond won the conference last season going 14-0 followed by Pinecrest at 10-4. Graduation hit both of those programs hard with each team only returning one all-conference selection. Jack Britt could be the wild card this season after finishing fourth last year at 8-6 in the SAC-8 and 16-9 overall.
The Lady Buccaneers return four all-conference selections — Holly Cornelius, Kaiah Parker, Lauren Walker and Caitlin Broome — and Snow knows with that many starters returning it won’t take Jack Britt long to find their rhythm.
“Jack Britt is not going to be any easy game to win,” she said. “Pinecrest the way they built their female athletics they are never a team you can sleep on. This conference is going to be tremendously competitive.”
Snow hopes her team surprises people after losing so many starters.
“We want to be that team that says ‘ah they lost everyone, it’s going to be a shoe in,’ and then blow them out of the water,” she said.
The only road block the Lady Scots will have to overcome is believing in themselves and communicating. Snow said right now she has a very quiet, timid team and that doesn’t win games.
“They have to learn to believe they are as good as I’m telling them,” Snow said. “Once they get that belief in themselves — we’re going to be scary but first I have to teach them it’s okay to yell and be loud. I’m a very rambunctious coach. I want to mimic collegiate play and those girls talk and hustle. I want my girls to make their presence known.”
Snow hopes the team can overcome their four-year playoff slump this season. It’s been four years since the Lady Scots have made it past the first round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. Snow said last year’s team had the talent and ability to beat Myers Park, but Myers Park wanted it more.
“I think at a certain point at the end of the season some players are tired. Who wants to proceed on. Who we played, were they a great team? Could we have beat them — for sure. It came down to who wanted it more,” she said. “If you’re done and start the game that way it will go as fast as it went.”
Another difference this season is the number of girls that came out — there will be 14 players on both the JV and varsity roster, which means Snow some wiggle room if a starter gets injured or an underclassmen needs to be bumped up.
“I’m excited to have all these options and have the girls compete for a spot,” she said. “I don’t have a set starter for every game. I’m not choosing favorites, I’m choosing the best. If a freshman is playing better that’s who plays.”
The other thing Snow wants to instill in her team is pride. She wants her girls to have pride in being a Scotland County athlete.
“We’re the only high school in this county. People only see football and I see why but I know my girls want some of that limelight,” she said. “I want my girls to have pride when they play. I also want the community to be proud of all the teams, not just football, and come out to games and cheer my girls on.”
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]