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Lawrence finishes perfect league season

MERRY HILL – It’s been a storybook season.

Lawrence Academy rolled through the Tarheel Independent Conference with a perfect 12-0 record and earned their second consecutive league crown in 2007.

In his second year at the helm of the Lady Warriors volleyball program, Dr. Ed Clouse said he was even happier with this year’s championship.

“I think it’s better this year because we were able to go undefeated,” he said. “Any time you win a championship it’s great, but to know you were able to beat everyone twice, you can’t improve on that. This is the best a team can possibly do.”

When Dr. Clouse became the Head Volleyball Coach at Lawrence, he inherited a team with one returning part-time starter. He guided that team to the TIC championship.

This year, his fortune was better as four starters returned from the championship team. They included senior Kate Hodges, Kathryn Taylor and Kendall Street as well as junior Debbie Stotesbury.

Sophomore Ashtyn Mizelle had seen time on the court for the Warriors during her freshman campaign as well and sophomore Ashton Lyle had put in a solid season on last year’s junior varsity team.

Add to that list talented newcomer sophomore Shelby Zube and the Warriors had a recipe for success.

Together that group combined for 17 wins during the regular season, defeating all six conference foes as well as recording wins over public schools Jamesville High School, Bear Grass High School, Cape Hatteras High School and Columbia High School.

“We played a much harder non-conference schedule this season,” Dr. Clouse said. “I think playing teams like Jamesville, who made the state playoffs last year, is a good barometer for us as we head into the state playoffs.”

While the non-league schedule was tough and the wins were important, it’s the Tarheel Independent Conference championship that helped the Warriors continue to add to their statewide notoriety.

“Winning the conference means a whole lot to me because it makes me realize how hard we have worked in practice to get where we have this year,” Stotesbury said.

Mizelle agreed with that assessment.

“We have been practicing and working all year,” Mizelle said. “I’m glad all that hard work paid off.”

Zube said, “It means a lot to me since this is my first year here. I’m glad we’re the conference champions because we worked really hard.”

The conference championship was something the seniors had experienced before, but the undefeated league season wasn’t. It was clearly important to those three student-athletes.

“It is very important to me because we were not undefeated last year,” Hodges said. “I wanted to leave this year feeling great about our record and now I can.”

Street added, “The perfect record in our conference means a lot to me because last year we missed it by one game. It feels great to say we won them all.”

For her part, Taylor said it was one of the reasons the team worked so hard.

“The record we had this season was part of the reason we tried so hard each game to get another victory,” she insisted.

The perfect mark was also important to the younger members of the team.

“We worked hard to get where we are,” Lyle said. “It’s exciting. It is important to be 12-0 because we accomplished what we wanted to.”

This season has been a stellar one for the team, but each person has had a hand in the success.

Street led the team with 185 kills for the season and also had the highest number of digs with 121. She had a 90 percent success rate on her serves and recorded 66 aces.

Hodges had 88 blocks on the season to pace her squad and had a 97.5 serving percentage with 25 total aces.

Taylor had a stellar 91.6 serving percentage and had 40 aces on a season in which she split time between middle hitter and setter. She also had 107 kills on the season and 68 digs.

Stotesbury had 380 assists for the season to lead the team and was also tied for the team lead in aces with 66. She recorded 68 digs as well.

Zube was the team’s other setter and was also excellent at serving. She had 52 aces on the season and had 37 digs.

Mizelle recorded 74 kills in her first full season as an outside hitter. She also had 48 aces and 74 digs.

Lyle, who was used in virtually every position on the court, had 14 aces and 18 kills as well as 24 digs.

Every member of the team except Zube identified their favorite victory as their triumph over league rival Hobgood Academy. Zube said hers was beating Columbia, where she previously played.

As they head into the TIC tournament, the three seniors took a moment to reflect on the 2007 regular season.

“I will remember all the laughs during practice and the many wins we’ve achieved,” Taylor said. “It’s been a very good last year and I couldn’t have asked for better teammates.”

Street said, “I will remember how we always played as a team and the long practices it took to accomplish what we have.”

Hodges said her memories will include those who were behind the team always.

“I will remember all the support our JV team and the fans gave us,” she said. “I’ll also remember all the wall sits.”

Dr. Clouse, who is in his 14th season of coaching prep volleyball, said he was happier for his team than himself.

“I’m very happy for them,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy task to win the conference. Nancy Brittenham has Ridgecroft playing well. Albemarle is Albemarle and Cap Pfeiffer has Northeast heading in the right direction.

“The girls worked hard and I’m proud of what they accomplished,” he added.

The Warriors will try to win their second consecutive TIC tournament title beginning Wednesday afternoon at Albemarle School.