When Scotland varsity volleyball coach David Barnes watched his team fall to Hoggard in this year’s state 4A playoffs, it capped off a Fighting Scots’ coaching career spanning 11 years and a 250-26 combined record.
But following the recent unveiling of the conference and region season-ending awards, Barnes acknowledged that 2012 was a special year, made all the more so by his players.
“It was a fitting group to finish my career with here at Scotland,” said Barnes, who was named Southeastern Conference co-coach of the year along with Pinecrest coach Barbra Foxx. “We weren’t the biggest or deepest team that I’ve had here, but we never backed down from a fight. These girls overcame a lot after losing seven starters from last year’s team, and I feel honored that I got to stand alongside them as they rose to the challenge.”
The 2012 volleyball Fighting Scots saw five members of this season’s team (which finished 23-1 en route to winning a school record eighth-straight conference championship) earn all-conference honors. They were Caroline Pridgen, Greta Griswold, Libby Ingram, Brianna Harris and Maddie Milholland.
Out of those five players, only one was an underclassman: Milholland, who in her junior year established herself as one of Scotland’s brightest hopes for the future of the program after Barnes’ departure. She finished the season third on the team with 126 kills at the net, while also recording a .293 hitting percentage, 103 serving points and 33 service aces.
“You’ll see some big things out of here next year, count on it,” Barnes said. “She played like a senior this season, and with Caroline and Libby leaving, it will be Maddie dropping the hammer on Scotland’s opponents.”
In addition to Milholland, it was Ingram who showcased the most drastic improvement from last season, as the Scotland senior matured into a legitimate scoring threat opposite Pridgen, the team’s offensive leader. Ingram finished second behind Pridgen in both kills (216) and blocks (21) this season.
“Libby is one of our great turnaround stories,” Barnes said. “She went from a good player to a great, game-changing player that turned into a monster at the net as well. I couldn’t be more pleased with how she took command of her game this year.”
Throughout the season, the Scots operated from a 4-2 scheme, which utilizes two setters to open up kill opportunities for the offense (by contrast, most teams in the conference utilized a 5-1 scheme with just one setter). Which makes Harris and her team-leading 335 setting assists all the more impressive in Barnes’ eyes, especially after Harris sat out the 2011 season with a knee injury.
“Brianna had a tough road back from her injury, but she rebounded in a big way,” Barnes said. “Even though she was a setter half of the time because of the 4-2 system we ran, there was only one or two players in the conference that equaled her assists’ numbers and they were full-time setters.”
Without question, Griswold was the engine that kept Scotland running throughout her varsity volleyball career. In addition to earning her second consecutive all-conference distinction, Griswold was a proverbial Swiss army knife for the Fighting Scots this year, leading the team in passing (319 of 424 passing attempts were on target for a 75% accuracy rate), serving (52 aces to only 28 serving errors on the entire year) and defensive digs (97).
The latter category is perhaps the most telling statistic regarding the type of player Griswold has been for the Scots, as seeing Griswold diving across the court became a common occurrence for Scotland fans over the years.
“Greta is the heart and soul of Scotland volleyball,” Barnes said. “She plays with all of her might, is always enthusiastic and she sacrifices her body to help win us matches. She has a relentless pursuit of the ball, and it doesn’t matter who or what gets in her way.”
And finally, it was Pridgen who once again too home the most honors this season to close out a decorated Scotland career that will likely never be duplicated. In addition to being named to the all-conference squad, Pridgen was selected as the conference player of the year for the second year in a row and also was named the Cape Fear region player of the year. Pridgen was also named the region player of the year in her sophomore season with the Fighting Scots.
Out of the 660 combined attempts on the ball this season, Pridgen collected 305 kills (a number she’s surpassed in every year she’s been a starter), a .355 average and only 71 hitting errors.
“In my 20 years of coaching, she’s the best player I ever had from a statistical perspective,” Barnes said. “She’ll likely be the best hitter there ever will be at Scotland, and it’s humbling to finish my career coaching a player like Caroline.”
As for Barnes’ future, the former Scotland coach will travel to Kinston, N.C. to join wife Shelly at Lenoire Community College, where he will assist his wife in coaching the Lady Lancer volleyball squad. Barnes will also field potential offers from collegiate programs looking to enlist Barnes’ winning pedigree as well, should the opportunities arise.
But as of now, Barnes is content with his coaching career and the Scotland legacy he’s leaving behind.
“People like to talk and say a lot, but when it’s all said and done, more is often said than done,” said Barnes in reference to a common catchphrase he’s used over the years. “Here at Scotland, way more has been done than said, and my hat’s off to the players, the parents and the community that supported us from day one. It was a great ride to say the least.”