Connor Cooper sees learning opportunities in failures. At some point, that will mean his Carolina Forest volleyball squad will look back on a loss and try to figure out what went wrong.
Well, at some point. Carolina Forest (8-0, 4-0 region) has not dropped a match this season. In fact, the Panthers have yet to lose a single set. On Monday night, they cruised past St. James, the final match in the first half of their region slate.
“I’m not surprised,” the third-year coach said. “Just seeing what I see at practice, and then they come out and just execute. I’m really not surprised. I know that we’ve played some tough games.”
In some ways, the team’s success is normal. This is a program that has won at least a share of the last four region titles, including going 10-0 in region play last season.
“I was expecting some good girls coming up from JV, and we only lost three seniors last year,” said senior setter Avery Campbell, one of the team’s captains. “So I was expecting the same talent we had last year, if not better.”
Like all teams, the Panthers have been forced to adjust to the disruptions of COVID-19. Club seasons were canceled and there was no summer camp. On top of those challenges, they’ve dealt with injuries, forcing the team to shuffle its rotation.
But there’s a cohesiveness to these players that has helped them keep winning, said Fallon Tomlin, a defensive specialist and the team’s other senior captain.
“We have just a really great team bonding,” Tomlin said. “All of the girls know each other so well because a lot of us have played club with each other and high school for forever. So we know how each other plays. … It wasn’t that hard for us to get back into it.”
Along with dominating the region, the Panthers have also defeated Myrtle Beach and reigning 4A state champion North Myrtle Beach.
“That was a huge victory for us,” Cooper said of defeating the Chiefs. “Huge ego boost.”
While the Panthers have played well, their coach tries to keep them focused on consistency. They have bigger goals for later in the fall.
“We’ve got our long-season goggles on,” he said. “We’re trying to take this all the way into November.”
And despite their hot streak, the Panthers have not focused on it.
“We just keep going with the flow and we just keep moving on to the next game,” Campbell said. “Because we can’t really think of the past. You have to keep going on to the future.”