Carolina Forest is the team to beat in region play.
At least that’s been the case in recent years.
But can the squad that has won at least a share of the last four region titles — including going 10-0 in region play last season — continue that run?
“We are looking to overcome adversity,” said third-year coach Connor Cooper. “We have fewer players this year, we’re trying to meet the [COVID-19] restrictions and comply and all that stuff.”
But the Panthers will still be formidable.
Although they lost three members of last year’s team to graduation, Cooper is optimistic about younger players filling those roles. He’ll also have experienced leadership from the three seniors on his roster: setter Avery Campbell, defensive specialist Fallon Tomlin and defensive specialist Catrina Edwards.
“All three of them are natural leaders,” he said. “That’s what’s so cool.”
The region will look different this year with the removal of the Florence schools (South, West) and the addition of Sumter.
“I only remember playing Sumter one time at a tournament last year,” Cooper said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of talent they have and what they add to the region, but I know the regions are always tough.”
Overall, though, he’s upbeat about his squad.
“We’re going to have a really strong team,” he said. “I have high hopes for this season.”