Asheville, Hendersonville – Buncombe and Henderson County high school female squads produced state champions, near-champs and many exceptional performances in various sports.
In tennis, Hendersonville Lady Bearcats (16-1; 10-0 MFC) won their fourth straight state 2A team title in this fall. Top seeds Eliza Perry and Ramsey Ross paced the Court Cats. They also won the doubles title in non-team play. Other HHS seeds are Raleigh Prichard, Reese Redden Anna Macdowell, and Kathrine Graham who is the top six’s sole senior. “Five-peat”?
West Henderson Lady Falcons won the 3A track team title in May, by eight points (49-41) over West Carteret and by 21 over West Mecklenburg. Emma Hall won the 100-meter hurdles in 15.07 seconds. She won the 300m hurdles in 45.69. She helped West finish second in the 4×100 relay and third in the 4×200 relay. West won the 4×800 relay. Budzinksi was fourth in the 3200-meter run at 11:41.36. North Buncombe’s Cierra Williams was second in the discus toss.
In girls’ cross country, West was second to North Lincoln and had two of the top three finishers in Noelle Houlihan (19:11) and Breanna Budzinski (19:12). Teammate Lauren Sochia was 11th. North Buncombe had three in the top 20, led by Katie Johnson (19:36) in seventh place.
Softball Hawks Soar
The spring sun shined brightly on Karlyn Pickens and North Buncombe Lady Black Hawks in softball. They were the state’s runners-up in 3A softball for the first time in program history. The West Region’s third seed beat five teams, winning six games to reach the finals.
Generational talent Pickens struck out an N.C.-leading 402 batters with 34 walks in 175 innings, and 24 complete games. She was 22-1 with a minuscule 0.22 ERA pre-finals. She yielded merely one earned run total in two finals games, striking out 13 then 14 batters.
Pickens led the Hawks with a .487 average and 24 stolen bases entering state finals. Now a Tennessee Lady Vol, Pickens made the dean’s list for having a GPA of 3.5 or better in her first semester.
The Hawks hit well and can return several stars for another run in 2023. Fiery catcher Juliana Mendoza (.413) helps lead them. She tore her ACL late last season. But the team still made a strong playoff run. Senior Cheyenne Cable (.286) switched from shortstop to catcher, and Ali Jo Rice played SS. The infield also had Peyton Whitson (.422) at first base, Kiersten Gosnell at second and Kayla Higgins (.262) at third. The outfield had Molly Clark and two of the merely four seniors — Kenzie Jones (.343) and Addie Norton (.297). Gosnell, a six-foot junior, will be among prime Hawk pitchers in 2023.
Soccer to the Max
West Henderson Lady Falcon Marianne Maxon set a school soccer scoring record as a sophomore. Her spectacular 57-goal season propelled West (20-4-1) to the league crown and three 3A soccer playoff victories in the spring. Maxon had 23 assists. Emma Chavez tallied 22 goals and 16 assists as a Falcon junior. Senior goalkeeper Taylor Williams averaged allowing merely a half-goal per game.
Maxon, Chavez and Hendersonville 2022 grad Ali Garcia (in 2A) are all-state. Maxon was also all-state as a freshman in 2021, when her elder sister Caroline (now at UNC-CH) was all-state. Reynolds grad Halle Skibo and Roberson current juniors Kelly Gordon and Sarah Freeman were all-state in 4A, as voted by coaches. The Mountain Athletic Conference champion Rams were also led by senior Kayla Graham and sophomore Shayne Pratt with about a dozen goals apiece.
Hendersonville Bearcats (18-5; 12-0 MFC) in 2A, 3A Enka Sugar Jets (12-10-1), and 4A T.C. Roberson Rams (17-4-1; 12-0 MAC) each won two playoff matches. Garcia tallied 20 goals and 13 assists, Maggie Bish scored 15 and Annabelle Grymk ten times for HHS. Grymk and Garcia were among merely four seniors among the 29 players. Goalkeeper Laura Shelton (1.36 GAA) is now a senior.
Sharing second in the MAC at 8-2-2 were 4A Asheville Cougars (14-3-3 overall) and A.C. Reynolds Rockets (13-6-3). Skibo, now an Iowa Hawkeye, led ACR with 31 goals while then-senior Grace Laws yielded 1.2 goals per game. Sophomore Lily Foo scored 16 times, to pace three Cougars in double digits. Enka’s trio of double-digit goal scorers was led by Lizzie Anderson with 14. Owen (10-7-1) was second in its league at 8-2.
Lady Lions Rule
Asheville Christian Academy Lady Lions (17-9) won its second private NCISAA Division 3 state hoops title in three seasons. Carolina Athletic Conference co-players of the year Emma Larios (17 ppg.) and Evangelia Paulk led ACA.
Versatile Paulk averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds, an amazing five blocks and five steals, and three assists. The agile six-foot “Sleek Greek” transferred back to Asheville High for her senior year in 2022-23. AHS won its first nine games in 2022-23. Wofford signee Paulk (19.1 ppg.), junior Kirsten Watt (16.2) and senior point guard Aleysha Smith (12.8) lead the Cougar charge.
More Hoop Hurrahs
Reynolds (22-5; 11-1 MAC) won the Mountain Athletic Conference regular season in both women’s and men’s basketball in 2021-22. The Lady Rockets won over North Buncombe (21-7; 9-3) by two games — an unusually large margin in this elite league. T.C. Roberson and Enka were 6-6.
Jenna Barnes (12.8 ppg., 8 reb.), PG Peyton Harvey (10.7), six-foot center Landyn Stewart (9, 9.3 reb.), Julie Janus (8.1) and Hailey Sprinkle (7) balanced ACR‘s scoring. The Lady Rockets reached round three of 4A playoffs.
Enka turned on the Jets to make the deepest playoff run. The Sugar Jets won five playoff contests to end up the 3A runner-up. MAC leading scorer Bentlee Chockely (20 ppg.) and Hadleigh Dill (17 ppg., 9 reb., 3.4 assists) and superb rebounder and defender Hannah Daves led the Sugar Jets. Dill, now a senior, and Pickens of NBHS were first-team all-WNC as chosen by coaches.
League MVP Pickens (17.4 ppg.) led the MAC with 10 rebounds per contest. She also excelled in volleyball. Devon Davis (13), now a senior, and Pressley Laws (11) also averaged double digits in points. Their Lady Hawks (21-7) won in two 3A playoff rounds. Roberson (16-9), Asheville (13-8) and Erwin (11-13) also made the playoffs.
Roberson is off to an 8-4 mark in 2022-23, behind E.P. Sluder and 6-foot-1 Tymber Thompson each averaging 12 points. The Lady Rams and AC are each 2-0 in the league.
West Henderson (15-12) made 2022 playoffs. Twins Jaza (13.3 ppg.) and Jania (11.4) Wilson and Araya Padilla (10) ignited West. Lexie Gunter (19.3 ppg.), now a senior, paced North Henderson. She reached 1,000 career points last month. East Henderson has a new star in freshman Kayden Henderson (17 ppg.), in 2022-23. Hendersonville Lady Bearcats were their league runner-up at 6-6 in 2021-22. India Smith (15.2) and A.J. Jackson (10.1) emerged as sophomores in 2021-22. But Smith now plays for ACA.
Volleyball teams sparkled. North Henderson Lady Knights (25-4-1) advanced furthest among local squads. They reached the 3A fourth playoff round, tied arch-rival West Henderson for the Mountain Seven title at 11-1, then beat West in the league tourney.
Knight stars include seniors Ty Case (401 kills) and M7 tourney MVP ”libero” defender Lily Marsh (258 digs), juniors Bailey Rowe (388 kills, 169 digs) who is the overall league MVP and Peyton Taylor (177 kills), and senior Brittany Knox (872 assists).
West Henderson Lady Falcons (24-7) won two 3A playoff matches. West’s Leading hitters are sophomores Emma Bryson (372 “kills”/slams) and sky-scraping jumper Isabella Baylor (305), and seniors Carley Raleigh (159), Payton Brown (125) and Jen McNamara (101). East Henderson seniors Liv Brown and Mollie Moore both had nearly 100 kills. Top slammers for Hendersonville are seniors S.J. Shaffer (224) and Lola Sultenfuss (103) and junior Ellie Calhoun (105).
MAC champ T.C. Roberson Lady Rams (23-6; 11-1 MAC) won twice in 4A playoffs. Superb sophomore leaper Karlie Henning smacked 424 kills, senior Tymber Thompson 203, junior Amelia Novak 170 and freshman Carolina Peterson 160 for TCR.
MAC schools Reynolds (14-9; 9-3), Asheville (12-5; 8-4) and Enka (13-9; 8-4) dropped playoff openers. Owen Warlassies won a round in 2A. ACR top hitters are seniors Kellyn Henretta (183) and Jazmyne Parker (127) and junior Ryanne Dotson (107).