LAURINBURG — The Scotland High School volleyball team kicked off their 2016 season Monday with a new group of girls on the floor and a new head coach on the sidelines.
Coach Molly Hayes stepped down in March after learning she and her husband were expecting their first child. Hayes’ due date was near the end of July and with volleyball tryouts on Aug. 1 the third-year coach thought it was only fair to her team to step down.
Under Hayes’ leadership the Scots went 46-24 over the past three years with one Southeastern Conference Championship in 2013 and back-to-back second places SEC finishes in 2014 and 2015.
Taking over for Hayes is Scotland High School Assistant Athletic Director Adam Romaine, who has high expectations of his young team after some intense summer conditioning.
“These girls have worked hard this summer on skill work and conditioning,” he said. “We have a tough non-conference schedule that should prepare us for the top teams in our conference. We have some key returners from last year’s team who know what to expect, and how to accept the challenges.”
Romaine also has two new assistant coaches, who both played Division I volleyball, that have brought in fresh ideas to help fine tune the players skills.
“They have brought a great deal of experience, drills and skills to work with the girls,” Romaine said. “I have seen a few of the girls get better with the work they have put in.”
The Scots lost two key starters from last year’s team in Kaitlin Lewis and Kenleigh Callahan, but do return several key players in senior Emma Gray Beacham and juniors Mason Roberts, Macie Gibson and Nahir and Amaya Pegues.
Beacham and Nahir Pegues earned All-SEC accolades last season after helping the Scots to finish 13-10 overall and 7-3 in the SEC to tie Richmond for second place in the conference.
Beacham was Scotland’s setter for most of the year before switching to libero late in the season, dished out 391 assists — the most in the conference — and was third in the SEC with 220 digs. She paced the team with 208 serving points and 41 aces. Pegues was a middle hitter for the Scots’ racking up the most solo blocks of anyone on the team with 23.
“We have Emma and a nucleus of juniors how all got a great deal of playing time last season,” said Romaine. “Sarah Eury, a sophomore, was a JV player last year and has shown great improvement this summer. We also have a promising freshman Abby Quick that has impressed all the coaches. We are experienced at the setter position with Emma. The rest of the positions are areas we are a little inexperienced and a lot young.”
Despite being a younger team, Romaine is confident the Scots will be able to hold their own in the SEC and try to bring the conference title back to Scotland.
“I feel like we should be top three in our conference,” he said. “We all lost some key senior starters, however, the bigger schools in our conference have numbers to help rebuild faster. That being said, our girls have a lot of heart and fight in them, and I feel like this will take them far this year.”
Romaine thinks his teams biggest strength is how scrappy his players are, but knows they need some to make improvements on their serve-receive.
“We will make things happen during volleys,” he said. “Our biggest strengths are that we are smart, athletic, and scrappy in our play. Our weaknesses are serve receive, free ball passing and consistent hitting at the net. If the girls will buy into the newer concept of play and increase their confidence levels, they will be a team to beat for sure by conference time.”
The Scots are also hoping to advance past the first round of the NCHSAA 4A tournament — something they haven’t been able to do the past two years.
The Scots opened their season Monday playing in the Jack Britt jamboree and return to Jack Britt tonight. Matches will begin at 5 p.m.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.
2016 Scotland High School Volleyball Team Pictured above, front row, from left to right, Emma Gray Beacham, Maggie Laviner and Raeanna Cowan. Middle row, from left, Nakiya Locklear, Macie Gibson, Mason Roberts and Abby Quick. Back row, from left, Amaya Pegues, Sarah Eury, Ashley McGugan, Nahir Pegues, Kandon Luquer and Jenna Byrd.