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North volleyball duo looking to reach new heights

In many sports like volleyball and basketball, height is an intangible which successful teams normally have in great quantities.

North Stanly’s 2019 volleyball squad has two senior co-captains, Nicole Lowder and Merris Talbert, whose measure and impact on the team and games goes far beyond the pair’s 5-foot, 10-inch heights.

The pair were part of North’s historic run last season to the third round of the state playoffs and made their impact felt early and often Tuesday night as the Comets’ season continued with a 3-0 Yadkin Valley Conference win over Albemarle.

With a variety of jump serves along with powerful attacks at the net and from the back row, Lowder and Talbert helped the Comets (3-0, 2-0 YVC) to win easily over the Bulldogs (0-3, 0-3) with scores of 25-8, 25-10 and 25-11.

Lowder talked about the role of the duo on the team.

“We really want to encourage our younger teammates to be better and not give up on themselves,” she said.

The senior middle blocker said her team wants to go further this season in the playoffs.

“We want to make more history as we go. Merris and I try to keep the team together, keep everybody’s heads up. That’s really what you have to do, he said.”

Neither of them, Lowder said, are the kinds of players who would yell at a teammate after they made a mistake.

“If you are new and you don’t know our techniques or forms, we will stay after (practice) and help them,” Lowder said.

One approach to the game Lowder said the team has is to not take any opponent lightly saying North “likes to go into games playing just as hard as we would in a state championship.”

Talbert, along with Payton Landis, the team’s setter and a fellow senior, have been displaying their collective athletic ability at North since their freshman years. Both were members of the 2017 1A softball state title team, with Talbert pitching the majority of the postseason games including both wins in the finals series over Whiteville.

Talbert said the seniors on the 2017 team showed her how to be a leader.

“Nicole and I realize what we need to do to help the younger girls that moved up on the team,” Talbert said.

The difference in volleyball, Talbert added, “is knowing how to work together. The whole team has to work together to be successful…we are preparing to win a lot of games.

The expectations people have for the team are not any bigger than what the team has for themselves, Talbert said, noting the team is having to fill roles left from the graduation of Madi Morris and Camille Shelton.

Second-year head coach Kadie Morgan said the high expectations “has been a little bit of pressure but it pushes us to be better. We really dominated last year and we want to repeat that this year but be even better, do way better in the conference tournament.”

Talbert said she and Lowder lead more by example, building on the time both played together for Stanly Elite for three years.

“As we get to play together and play year round, that helps us a lot with the school year,” Talbert said.

North has some tough non-conference games on its schedule, including tomorrow’s matchup at 3A Central Cabarrus, which all count for the team’s overall record and plays into the NCHSAA’s playoff structure.

“We are so talented this year; we just want to play our best so we are seeded well and have a better chance of taking it all,” Morgan said.

“We have a lot of options on our front row. I call them our ‘little weapons’ that other teams don’t know we have…their approaches are so beautiful.”

Lowder said as the team’s season rolls on, she wants other teams to be intimidated to play North but realize “we are not a cocky team. We don’t go in like we are better than them. We want to win fair and square.”

The team also wore green ribbons in their hair in Tuesday’s win over the Bulldogs to honor a classmate, Ford Raynor, who recently underwent heart transplant surgery.

Talbert said it’s important to show support for Raynor saying “we love this school and the people here. We wanted to show we care and the team is here for them.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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