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Brandon has high hopes as she nears 100 volleyball wins

Five players graduated from last year’s 17-win varsity volleyball team. But time and again in Amber Brandon’s program, new players emerge and produce. The 2020-21 Davie season should be no different.

As usual, Brandon’s objective is to win the Central Piedmont Conference. With players like McKenzie Stakely, Ali Angell, Abigail Reynolds and Aimee Loj, that aspiration is reasonable.

“We’re not quite as strong offensively as we’ve been in the past, but we’re really good at defense and we’re really fast,” Brandon said.

Brandon has a raging program. There have been five winning seasons in five years. Her overall record is 97-35 and her CPC mark is 41-13. Davie’s finishes in the past three regular seasons: second, tied for first, second. Last year the War Eagles went 17-10 and 8-2 to take runner-up behind 9-1 West Forsyth. East Forsyth was 6-4, Reagan 5-5, Glenn 2-8 and Reynolds 0-10. Davie’s only three losses in CPC play came from West, twice in the regular season and then in the CPC Tournament final. The 2019 season ended in the second round of the 4-A playoffs against Ardrey Kell.

The seniors in 2020-21 are Stakely, Dyllan Everhardt, Kaylee Krause and Elizabeth Tilley. The juniors are Loj, Reynolds, Angell, Peyton Justice, Kimball Little, Sadie Eddinger and Molly Bures. There are three sophomores: Emma Hayes, Kiah Mathis and Emily Garner.

Stakely is a third-year varsity player who recently committed to Grace College in Winona Lake, In. She’s a tireless worker and she moves light lightning.

“McKenzie has some big shoes to fill, and she’s more than capable of filling them,” Brandon said of the libero spot. Last year Stakely was a defensive specialist while Dakota Hutchins ran libero. “This year she’s stepping into the role of being the libero and being one of the senior leaders. She’s a kid who has really wanted to play at the next level and she’s worked really hard. She has one of the hardest work ethics I’ve seen. Off the court, she understands the importance of strength training and speed. Definitely one of her strengths is her speed. So a lot of balls that the other team will think is down, she can get to.”

Another reason Brandon has high hopes again is the trio of Angell, Reynolds and Loj. Angell and Loj are third-year varsity players; this is Reynolds’ second year on varsity.

“It’s going to be a big year (for those three),” Brandon said. “Those three have been role players on varsity and this year they’re going to have to transform from role players into key players. We’re going to need those three to score points and be able to put some balls away.”

Although Brandon can envision a typical Davie season in terms of winning percentage, it will be a different kind of team.

“This team is really, really talented in a different way than we’ve been talented,” she said. “The last couple of years we’ve had a lot of offensive firepower. This year I think we’re going to be really good defensively, and I think we’re going to frustrate some teams and some good hitters. We just have to figure out this new style of volleyball. We have to adjust the way that we’re playing based on our strengths as a team.”

The War Eagles appear to have a lot – if not all – of the requisite parts to take first. They could also finish fourth. The CPC figures to be the crapshoot of all crapshoots in 2020-21.

“West Forsyth has a super talented outside (Clara LaRue),” she said. “They have good ball-control pieces. East Forsyth has a really good outside who has committed to play at Tennessee. I definitely think they’re going to be in the mix. I think Reagan is going to be pretty young this year. They’ve got some really good young talent.

“I think it could be anybody’s game this year in the CPC. I don’t see anybody going 10-0. It’s a tossup.”