Kinsley Huskey, right, is one of two seniors on Polk County's roster for the 2021 season.

Hill sees unlimited potential in Wolverines’ young guns

There’s a bit of a twinkle in Molly Hill’s eyes as she talks about this season’s Polk County volleyball squad.

Perhaps not what you would expect given the loss of eight seniors from last season’s squad, including Western Highlands Conference Player of the Year Marissa Twitty. Or given a roster that has twice as many freshmen as seniors.

But it’s that youth and the potential of those newcomers that has Hill excited about a season that begins Wednesday with the Wolverines traveling to Asheville Christian Academy.

“I love it,” Hill said of her young roster. “I was privileged enough to coach some of this group with (Polk County Volleyball Club) for a year when they were younger, and I got really excited about them at that point.

“They’re big, they’re tall, they’re exciting. I’ve thrown them right into things and they’re keeping up. I love having a young team and knowing I’ll have some of them for four year to develop them.”

The newcomers join a returning group that experienced the most unusual of seasons. Polk County’s 2020 squad fashioned an undefeated record, going 10-0 against WHC opponents, and seemed prime for a deep playoff run when a positive COVID-19 test within the program forced the Wolverines to bow out of the postseason.

That experience has not been lost on the program’s newcomers.

“After last season, and seeing what happened and our season being cut short, I think that is motivation for these girls to come in here and go after those same goals as well as strive for new things,” Hill said. “They’re quiet and a little shy, but they’re so competitive. They know what’s expected after playing for me before at PCVC and at the high school. They know what the expectations are.”

Fueling those expectations is a frontline filled with potential. Sophomore Ada Kelley and freshman Sophia Overholt are expected to see action on the outside, with both likely to remain on the court in both the front and back row. Sophomore Caroline Taylor will also see time outside. On the right side, freshman Mia Bradley, Kelley, Taylor and junior Elysia Smith are expected to feature.

Kinsley Huskey, one of the team’s two seniors, and freshman Morgan Yoder will be counted on in the middle. Yoder has been one of the bright spots of the preseason.

“I threw a completely new offense at her, basically said you need to learn this in 10 days, and she’s done it,” Hill said. “I’m excited about Mia and Sophia and the players we’ve got that can play all the way around. For freshmen to come in at the varsity level and play all the way around is a challenge, but they’ve both really hung in there and are playing great.”

Junior Ella Waldman is expected to anchor Polk County’s back row at libero

Sophomore Zaelea Eller is expected to start as the team’s setter, with junior Amberlyn Scruggs and Bradley also helping out there. Junior Ella Waldman returns at libero and will anchor the team’s defense.

“Ella is going to run our back row, and she’s great at it,” Hill said.

Polk County made a habit of romping through its WHC schedule, winning at least a share of seven straight conference championships and going 37-1 in the past four seasons. The Wolverines have moved up to the 2A ranks this season and will be part of a Mountain Foothills 7 Conference that will be challenging to say the least. Patton reached the state semifinals a year ago. R-S Central finished 13-1 and reached the third round. Hendersonville and Brevard perennially boast strong programs.

Winning a league title this season will be making quite a statement entering the postseason.

“I’m really excited about our new conference,” Hill said. “For the last few years, I’ve tried to schedule most of these teams for non-conference matches. I love the new conference. I think it’s going to be great and it’s going to push us.

“Obviously, it’s going to be more competitive. But that’s going to make us better.”

The measuring stick for Polk County volleyball teams remains the 2018 squad, which reached the state 1A championship match before falling to Falls Lake Charter. No one is ready to put this year’s team in that class just yet, but should the group develop as Hill hopes. . .

“One of the strongest groups we’ve had at the high school was the team that went to state in 2018,” she said. “I feel like this team could be right there at that same level.

“It’s just amazing that they’re so going and have so much room to develop and grow.”