SouthLake Christian's volleyball team is heading back to Cary Academy this weekend with hopes of returning with another state title.
The unbeaten Eagles (25-0), champions of the Metrolina Athletic Conference, are seeded No. 2 and among the final eight teams in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association's 3A bracket, after winning the 2A crown last year. The Eagles will play No. 10 Forsyth Country Day in Friday's quarterfinals, with the semifinals set for later Friday and the finals scheduled for Saturday.
Eagles coach Rachel Noreika says her team, which has won 21 matches by a 3-0 score, just continues to perform.
"You can't really complain," says Noreika. "I knew we'd be good, but the girls have gone beyond my expectations. The girls have just been working really hard."
The Eagles have played just three full five-game matches this year, against Charlotte Christian, Hickory Grove and Village Christian. SouthLake beat Covenant Day in four games. Dating back to last season, the Eagles have won 29 straight matches and 34 of their last 35.
But this weekend will not be easy. If the Eagles win twice and advance into the final, they will likely face No. 1 seed Charlotte Latin, which is 37-2.
The Eagles are hopeful that last year's experience will help them this weekend. Noreika wants her team to remain calm, confident and focused and is "making sure that we are staying aggressive and not really playing it safe anymore."
Noreika likes how this year's team plays together.
"We're not the biggest team, but we usually win because we have better ball control," she says.
All-state selections a year ago, seniors Katie Schoenrock and Kayla Summer lead the Eagles. Schoenrock averages 15 kills per match, while Summer averages nine along with 12 digs. The two were recently named all-conference in the MAC, along with libero Olivia Loeffler, who averages 12 digs per match. SouthLake setters Lucy Iannarino and Dakoda Hawkins have combined for more than 700 assists this year.