YORK — Julie McGee knows a lot about the evaluation process for volleyball. She has elevated York Comprehensive High School’s program since her arrival from Chicago about eight years ago.
Participation is on the rise at the middle school, JV and varsity level, and there’s the possibility of a ninth-grade team for York. But some students are turned away at the cut before the season.
McGee, a former Winthrop University standout who played on a championship-caliber high school team in Chicago, gauged the performance of the varsity team during preseason preparations and during the YCHS Varsity Volleyball Invitational Scrimmage hosted by the Lady Cougars last week.
In addition to YCHS, the invitational included Northwestern, South Pointe, Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Gaffney high school competing at courts in the main gym and in the auxiliary gym.
“We always benefit from hosting the invitational,” McGee said. “It’s an opportunity to identify our strengths and weaknesses.”
She said young players dot this year’s roster, and they are still learning at the varsity level. “They are learning that the game is faster, with a lot of time and effort devoted to preseason preparations,” said McGee.
Nora Childers and Mattie Ballard are two senior mainstays on this year’s 14-player roster. Childers is battling lower back problems that hindered her play with the Lady Cougar softball team last spring.
“I hurt my back a week ago while stretching,” Childers said after the volleyball invitational. “I hope to be playing again soon.”
Childers is locked in to a sport she loves to play. “It’s hard to believe my senior year is here,” she said. “It’s gone by so fast.”
Childers said the players are working hard to improve as a team. “We’ve had young players contributing in the preseason,” she said. “It all has to come together for our team to be successful in the region.”
Ballard, a solid performer last season, agrees that senior year has sneaked up on them.
“I find myself in the role of senior leader,” she said. “When I first played varsity volleyball, the seniors on the team helped me. I want to do the same for the younger players on the team this year.”
Ballard said the development of the young players on the team “is a key to success this season.”
With regular-season play on tap this week, McGee is aware that region play looms.
“We know that we will be competing in a competitive region,” she said. “We got a look at several region teams in the invitational,” such as Northwestern, South Pointe, Fort Mill and Rock Hill.
The Lady Cougars competed at Indian Land Tuesday and will host the Lady Warriors at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5.
The YCHS team will compete in the Sumter Lady Gamecock Spike Off Sept 7 before returning home to face region foe Rock Hill on Sept. 10.