BREC varsity volleyball team defeats Highlands in season opener

Blue Ridge Early College varsity volleyball team travelled to Highlands on Wednesday for the official season opener and took the win 3-1.

The Lady Bobcats came out swinging, coming fresh off the heels of scrimmages against Swain and Hiwassee Dam.

BREC Gracie Watson goes for the kill against Highlands.

It was the Lady Highlanders’ first time back on the court in a game setting this year and they were also without hitter Jordan Carrier. Carrier is out for the season because of a torn ACL, MCL, and meniscus in her left knee.

BREC Coach Carlton Fowler said the girls played well, and every time they step on the court against Highlands it’s a challenge.

BREC Varsity Volleyball Team. Front row from left are Chloe Fowler, Ella Day, Vanessa Russell, and Mercedes McLaughlin. Back row from left are Coach Carlton Fowler, Mahalah Stewart, Macy Heltsley, Charlotte Sherrill, Maddy Potts, Gracie Watson, Holly Foss, and Coach Cindy Fowler.

“I thought we did a great job,” said Fowler. “Highlands is a scrappy team and they played great also. It doesn’t matter what the situation is, season opener or conference championship, every time we play against them it’s going to be tough. This isn’t a conference game and we know they’re going to come back.”

Highlands Varsity Volleyball Team. Front row from left are India Clark, Brandy Zagal, Reese Schmitt, Alyson Dayton, and Tessa Wisniewski. Back row from left are Ella Crook, Ava Schmitt, Anne-Marie Moore, Emma Minton, Julia May Schmitt, and Haley Small.

Wednesday’s game was not a conference match because of changes in the season’s schedule due to COVID. The breakdown is that each team plays against teams in their conference three times. The first game is considered a regular season game, and the second two are conference games.

After the final play of the game, Highlands Tessa Wisniewski makes her way off the court as BREC celebrates in the background. Editor’s Note: I posted this photo because of the emotion captured by the shot. I asked Tessa for her permission and she said it’s no problem, just motivation to play harder next time.

Highlands Coach Desiray Schmitt said she was happy with what she saw on the court.

“We did really good,” said Schmitt. “We were hustling like we’re supposed to, blocking, returning their serves, getting our tips in, they were really reading the court well. But covering, it just killed us all game.”

BREC Holly Foss diving for the save against Highlands.

BREC Gracie Watson said it’s always a challenge taking on Highlands, but it helped to get a couple of scrimmages in before the season officially began.

“We did great,” said Watson. “We communicated better than we have been in the past, we kept our emotions out of it, and the game seemed to start slower without Jordan [Carrier] hitting it at us right from the start.”

Highlands Brandy Zagal made her debut appearance on the varsity squad in the season opener against BREC.

All athletes wore masks on the court because of COVID-19 protocols. Watson said it was difficult to hear her teammates through the masks, but they had to adjust.

Highlands Brandy Zagal made her first appearance on the Lady Highlanders varsity squad and said it was exciting starting off the season against BREC.

“It was my first game playing on varsity, we played Blue Ridge, and the first game of the season is always the worst,” said Zagal. “I was scared. I’ve heard about the hits from Gracie [Watson] and Charlotte [Sherrill] and they’re tough. And our covering was awful, we weren’t getting close enough and the ball would just drop right in front of us.”

BREC Maddy Potts makes the tip against Highlands.

Spectators of athletic events are currently limited to parents, support staff, and media in adherence with North Carolina High School Athletic Association guidelines.

All eyes are on Highlands Reese Schmitt as hitters get ready for the pass.

BREC Charlotte Sherrill jumps for the kill.

Highlands India Clark launches for the deep kill against BREC.

BREC Mahalah Stewart returns a Highlands serve on Wednesday.

Highlands Ava Schmitt slams it down on the BREC side of the net.

BREC Holly Foss scores one for the Lady Bobcats.

Highlands Reese Schmitt makes a high dig returning a BREC spike.

From left are BREC Holly Foss and Charlotte Sherrill ready for a Highlands serve.

BREC Mahalah Stewart tries to thread the needle between Highlands blockers from left Ava Schmitt and Julia May Schmitt.

Highlands India Clark returns a short BREC serve.

From left are BREC Mahalah Stewart and Chloe Fowler talking strategy before a Highlands serve.

From left are Highlands Reese Schmitt and Ava Schmitt.

BREC Holly Foss comes soaring in for the kill.

Highlands Tessa Wisniewski plans her serve to BREC.

BREC Chloe Fowler goes for the tip against Highlands blockers from left Tessa Wisniewski and Julia May Schmitt.

BREC Charlotte Sherrill returns a Highlands serve.

Highlands Tessa Wisniewski sets it up for a hitter against BREC on Wednesday.

BREC Mahalah Stewart makes the pass against Highlands.

Pictured at the top of the article is BREC Charlotte Sherrill scoring a kill against Highlands.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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