The end of July means fall sports season is fast approaching, and Chatham County’s six high school volleyball teams look ready for another solid year of play.
Last fall, four schools — Woods Charter, Chatham Charter, Seaforth and Chatham Central — made the state playoffs in their respective classifications. The Wolves and Hawks each won at least one playoff match, with Woods advancing to the third round of the 1A tournament before losing to Falls Lake, 3-0.
Here’s a closer look at each county team and how they could fare in 2023.
The Wolves are coming off a banner season that saw them win a program-record 19 matches under head coach Amanda Gough. Woods Charter won the Central Tar Heel 1A Conference with a 10-1 record against league opponents and had an overall record of 4-1 against Chatham County opponents.
Leading the charge for Woods Charter during the 2022 season was rising sophomore Josephine Valgus, who had 442 kills — 346 more than the next closest teammate — to go with 48 aces, 268 digs and 11 total blocks as a freshman last fall. Rising junior Maya Sheridan contributed 133 aces, 27 blocks and a county-high 593 assists over the course of the season.
Woods Charter’s first game of the 2023 season takes place Aug. 16 at home against Roxboro Community. The Wolves are 0-6 all time against the Bulldogs, though they haven’t met since the 2016 season.
Finishing second in the Central Tar Heel 1A Conference last year was Chatham Charter, which went 13-8 overall and 9-1 in league play. The Knights lost in the conference tournament finals to Woods Charter before dropping their first playoff match, 3-0, to East Wake Academy.
The Knights will have to replace a lot of production from last season. Gone are recent graduates Emerson Clark (236 kills, 61 aces, 449 digs), Ashlee Rains (84 kills, 35 aces) and Alison Perez (394 assists). The top returners for Chatham Charter in terms of stats this season are rising senior Delana Loflin (51 kills, 27 aces, 23 blocks) and rising senior Riley Maynor (62 kills, 28 aces, 370 digs).
The Knights will begin their 2023 campaign Aug. 18 at home against North Moore. Chatham Charter faces Woods Charter on Aug. 29 in the first conference match for both teams.
Competing in its second varsity season ever in 2022, the Seaforth volleyball team went 15-5 overall and finished second in the Mid-Carolina Conference at 8-2. The Hawks made it to the third round of the 2A tournament before crashing out of the playoffs.
The Hawks will bring back everyone from last year’s team when they take the court this fall. Among the top returners in 2023 are rising junior Maris Huneycutt — who was named all-state after leading her conference with 574 assists last fall — and rising sophomore Keira Rosenmarkle, who had a team-high 298 kills in 2022.
Seaforth, which is coached by Scott Green, kicks off the 2023 fall season on Aug. 14 on the road at Apex Friendship. The Hawks begin Mid-Carolina Conference play with a matchup against Graham on Aug. 17.
The final team to make the playoffs last season was Chatham Central, which made the 1A tournament despite finishing the regular season with an overall record of 9-13. The Bears lost in the first round of the 1A tournament to Falls Lake — their third straight loss to end the year.
Luckily for the Bears, they bring back an all-state player in rising junior Karaleigh Dodson, who had 188 kills, 37 aces and 59 blocks as a sophomore in 2022. Chatham Central will also bring back rising senior Cassie McKeithan (109 kills) and rising senior Kate Hussey (34 aces, 442 assists).
Chatham Central starts the 2023 season on the road Aug. 15 at new school Southeast Alamance. The matchup will be the Bears’ first against a Mid-Carolina Conference opponent this upcoming season.
The Jets haven’t finished a season above .500 at any point in the past 15 years, but could this be the season J-M finally turns things around?
Last fall, the Jets went 7-14 overall under head coach Johnny Alston while finishing the year with a 3-7 record in conference play. Jordan-Matthews’ top player was rising senior Reagan Smith, who totaled 188 kills, 62 aces and 77 blocks to earn all-state honors along the way. Also contributing heavily was rising senior Janeyra Guerrero-Jaimes, who led the team with 266 assists.
Alston and his team start the 2023 season Aug. 15 on the road at Cummings. The team’s first matchup with a Chatham County opponent comes two days later on Aug. 17 on the road at Chatham Central.
The county team with the worst record last fall was Northwood, which went 1-20 a year after making the fourth round of the state playoffs.
The Chargers dealt with a period of transition between 2021 and 2022 as some players graduated and others transferred to different schools. Northwood athletic director Cameron Vernon was also in charge of coaching the team after he was unable to find someone to fill the position before the start of the year.
Northwood — which does not have its 2022 roster posted on MaxPreps — begins the 2023 season Aug. 15 on the road at North Moore.