Candler – Volleyball playoffs start next week, with second-ranked T.C. Roberson eager for a state title and quarantined West Henderson as well as North Henderson also poised for title quests.
Those are the top three Western Mountain Athletic Conference seeds, in that order. The WMAC gets three automatic playoff berths. Playoff pairings are to be announced Jan. 9.
Roberson is undefeated at 12-0 and ranked second in the state among 3A schools. The Lady Rams are coached by Michelle Wagaman. This season, they edged West 3-2 at home, in a see-sawing clash. West won the first game (“set”) 29-27. TCR won the next two, by identical 25-18 scores. A team wins by being the first to 25 points but also winning by at least two points.
West squeezed out a 26-24 win, to knot the match at 2-2. The finale is the first to 15 points and to win by two. TCR did that — triumphing at 15-7.
The Lady Rams shut out seven of their first ten victims. They then won 3-1 at A.C. Reynolds and versus Asheville, on Dec. 22-23.
West is 9-1 and NHHS is 7-3 in the WMAC (and 8-3 overall), as the top three schools are spaced apart in standings. West notched 3-0 shutouts in all nine of its victories including its latest — over Erwin (25-21, 25-15, 25-14) on Tuesday, Dec. 29. West won 3-0 (25-15, 26-24, 25-13) at NHHS on Nov. 23.
North Henderson likely needs to win at least once this week, to avoid a 7-5 mark and stay in third place ahead of charging Enka. Sue Moon’s Lady Knights beat Tuscola 3-0 (25-12, 25-19 25-16) on Dec. 18, but then fell to Enka 3-1 (25-19, 25-19, 24-26, 26-24) at home Dec. 23. NHHS opened the new year at Reynolds on Monday, Jan. 4, then finished the regular season versus North Buncombe on Wednesday, Jan. 6.
Enka Moving Up
Enka and Tuscola are both 6-5, as of the winter break. Enka has a superb chance to end the regular season at 8-5, firmly in fourth and making the postseason with an outside chance of surpassing NHHS for third place. Enka is at Erwin on Wednesday, then host Asheville Thursday, Jan. 7. Jessica Banks’ Sugar Jets had a merry Christmas after the huge victory Dec. 23 at NHHS. Enka beat Tuscola 3-1 (25-14, 16-25, 25-16, 25-20), at home Dec. 11.
In contrast, a loss loomed for Tuscola at TCR on Monday, Jan. 4. If so, the Lady Mountaineers finish fifth, at 6-6. Montana Moore coaches them. Asheville (4-7), Reynolds (3-9), Erwin (2-10) and North Buncombe (1-10) round out WMAC standings.
In 2019-20, state runner-up West (30-7 overall) and TCR (24-4) were both 14-2 in conference matches — a game ahead of ACR. West won the WMAC tourney, by shutting out TCR 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-15). Head coach Tiffany Lowrance’s Lady Falcons then won five playoff rounds. TCR won two playoff matches, and ACR one.
West is Quarantined Twice
West Henderson twice had a different player test positive for the Coronavirus, and each time promptly quarantined the entire program for two weeks, West principal Luke Manuel told the Tribune.
Lady Falcon varsity volleyball players were first given rapid COVID tests on Monday, Dec. 21 — which was nearly a week into the first two-week quarantine, he said. Medical studies indicate COVID-19 tends to incubate in five days to two weeks. Players quarantined at home, missing a few days in school. The ongoing quarantine is mostly during the winter break. The school nurse advised players’ families that the players could return to class when school resumes Jan. 7-8 — if they showed no COVID symptoms. West’s team trainer reads player temperatures ahead of each practice and game, principal Manuel noted.
Varsity and JV practiced Dec. 28, then played at Erwin on Tuesday morning, Dec. 29.
However, one West player felt very ill post-match after exerting herself on the court, was promptly tested and was positive for COVID, Manuel said.
Cancelled were the last three matches — with North Henderson Dec. 30 (already put off from Dec. 22), at Tuscola Jan. 6 and with TCR at home Jan. 8. Lowrance hopes players test negative for COVID so they are cleared to practice Monday, Jan. 11, then open playoffs (likely at home) as slated on Jan. 12 — to avoid a forfeit. Her email to players noted the two-week quarantine is required by the Henderson County Health Department. Manuel said each county may vary in a quarantine mandate, after “they look at metrics” of COVID case trends.
Humiston Family Chiropractic owners Rick and Donna Humiston, whose daughter Selah is on West varsity, told The Tribune they will provide Coach Lowrance a box of medical-grade masks. That is to better protect varsity players from incoming germs.
Principal Manuel said, “we love having the support of our families.”
Meanwhile, West’s gym remains scheduled to be used Tuesday, Jan. 5 for West’s basketball seasonal opener — versus Erwin.