Rachel Henry

INDIAN TRAIL — For the first time in almost a decade, a Union County volleyball team besides Marvin Ridge is in position to take home an outright conference volleyball title.

The Sun Valley volleyball team is 8-0 on the season after a sweep of Cuthbertson on Thursday. The Spartans are currently two games up in the Southern Carolina Conference standings on both the Mavericks and Weddington, who are both 6-2.

Success is nothing new for the Spartans, who have gone 81-24 overall under head coach Rachel Henry since the start of the 2016 season, but this is the best chance Sun Valley has had at an SCC title. Henry spoke with The Enquirer-Journal on Friday about her senior leaders, her expectations for the second half and how the cohesion of youth and experience has benefited them thus far.

Question: Midway through the regular season, how do you feel like your team has handled all the adversity that COVID-19 has brought this year?

Answer: I think, as a program, we’ve handled it quite well. I think we knew the challenge coming in, and from an administrative standpoint and a coaching standpoint we started Day 1 with following the proper protocols to maintain safety in the environment we were given. And the girls didn’t question it. We’ve done a decent job the past couple years of maintaining unity as our motto, and this year we’ve added in the word “fluid.” I said it during the first match, and the girls really took to it. You have to be fluid in this environment, and they’ve really stepped up to and accepted that challenge. And because we’re such a close team, we’ve been able to have some success.

Question: Marvin Ridge has been the dominant volleyball team in Union County for a decade. How do you feel about the way this year is shaping up and your team’s chances at a conference title?

Answer: I’m very excited for the second half of the season. We’ve had a very talented team, but now we have the mentality along with the skill that has really helped us and allowed us to get some of those key wins we were unable to get in previous seasons. I’m just so happy and excited for the girls, because it’s been a long time coming. During the preseason, we set goals, and to be honest, a lot of the girls’ goals were to win a conference championship. They specifically said they wanted to beat Marvin. And those goals are getting accomplished this year. I’m super proud of them.

Question: Your roster features a good mix of older leaders and younger talented players. Who are some girls you’ve been particularly impressed by?

Answer: This team, I have three seniors, one junior, two freshman and four sophomores. We’ve got a good balance in there with our senior leadership and then the growth that my four sophomores have made between freshman and sophomore year has really helped us. They all have a respect for one another and the knowledge of volleyball that one another has. Through key moments, my seniors have stepped up and provided the guidance and leadership to the younger players in moments that were needed ... Specifically, I have senior Taylor Parker. She’s really been a voice on the team. She’s a dominant all-around player, but she also brings stability to the other girls. Senior Jordan Reiter, she’s our middle blocker, and she’s really taken in the two freshmen and provided positional guidance for them and has been a leader to the group. It just comes back to our motto of unity. It’s really carried us in the past couple of years and allowed us to stay together as a close-knit team.