Opening volleyball game kicks off sports during COVID-19
It is only fitting that the Highlands Lady Highlanders volleyball team serve up the 2020-21 season against their most fierce rivals. Highlands’ defense of the Little Smoky Mountain Conference championship started Wednesday night against Blue Ridge Early College.
Though match results weren’t available by press time, the Lady Highlanders are glad to be finally between the lines after losing the bulk of their spring sports season in 2020 due to COVID-19. The social distancing restrictions imposed because of the pandemic also cost the Lady Highlanders their summer workout season and pushed back the start of fall sports two months to November.
New coach Desiray Schmitt, who replaced longtime coach Katy Postell over the summer, said her team always looks forward to playing Blue Ridge.
“I feel like it’s very fitting to start with Blue Ridge,” she said. “It gets the girls excited and motivated for the season.”
The Lady Highlanders want to play in some games where the scores count. They’ve been waiting a while.
“I think the girls are more than ready,” Schmitt said. “They have waited a long, long time for this season.”
Schmitt is the cousin of veteran Lady Highlanders volleyball players Ava, Reese and Julia May Schmitt, so this will be something of a family affair, the new coach said.
“I think it will be fun,” she said. “Having fun is my main goal, because if you aren’t having fun, it will make for a long season.”
“I’m really looking forward to working with these girls,” said Schmitt, who assumed the coaching reins after longtime coach Katy Postell stepped down after the 2019 season to spend more time with family.
In 2019, the Lady Highlanders finished the season with a 13-13 season with a 5-1 LSMC record and the momentum of winning the regular season and tournament championships to take them into the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1A playoffs. But the luck of the tournament draw didn’t fall in Highlands’ favor as they drew North Stanly in the first round of the playoffs, a team penalized for using an ineligible player, which resulted in the forfeiture of 10 games. The Lady Highlanders were swept 3-0 in the first round. This year, the team feels like they have something to prove.
“The girls want to send a message with their play during the regular season,” Schmitt said. “The girls expect a lot because they are a good group of athletes and know what they are capable of.”