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by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
ROLESVILLE —The key words around the volleyball court at Rolesville High School is youth and inexperience.
The school’s head coach Tosha Pullen is watching a very young team start the process of growing into what they hope will be eventually be a playoff contender.
“I keep reminding them that this year is laying the foundation and building their character,” Pullen said. “I’m also explaining to them that it doesn’t matter what other teams or people are saying.”
Only a handful of the girls on the roster have even played volleyball before and that’s why many of them will get their chance to help out the cause this season.
“That’s why I know we are right where we are supposed to be for this first year,” Pullen said.
The Rams, 0-14, are struggling to get their first win, and are a team that does not give up but continues to fight.
“They are not rolling over and letting teams defeat them,” Pullen said. “Our opponents are having to work hard.”
In their matches, the Rams have displayed valiant effort and a strong command of the court, though it has not been enough to swing the matches into their favor.
During a recent loss to Southeast Raleigh, Rolesville’s youth was apparent in losing the first two sets by matching scores of 8-25.
The Rams struggled with mistakes and frequently overshot a serve or played balls that would have otherwise been out.
But throughout the third set against the Bulldogs, the Rams showed a strong sense of place, knowing where to put the ball and when to pull back from a play because it was going out of bounds.
Rolesville also got some momentum in the third frame, outscoring Southeast Raleigh 4-0 at one point. But just as quickly, the Bulldogs were back on attack, scoring seven straight points to secure a 25-15 win.
Also on display was Rolesville’s strong grasp of plays. Considering the very young make up of this team, there was an impressive sense of team chemistry.
“Everyone is getting along and working well together,” Pullen said. “We have had some bumps in the road as most teams, but I can honestly say that for the most part, we get along.”
“They are fun kids and I enjoy being around them,” she added. “I like their hard work and I like their dedication to the challenge that is before them.”
Freshman Ashley Stroot is one of the most experienced players on the team. The Rams co-captain played two years at Heritage Middle School and plays club volleyball at NC Volleyball Academy on the 14 Crystal National team.
“We all knew starting that this year would be a challenge because most of our opponents have played together for three years,” Stroot said. “But that’s okay, because we’re learning a lot and improving our skills.”
“Coach Pullen does a great job of teaching the fundamentals of volleyball,” Stroot added, “while still keeping us motivated. As we face ‘the giants’ she reminds us that our time will come down the road and to just keep practicing.”
Stroot said she just wants to play her best and encourages her teammates to compete to the best of their ability.
“I think it’s important to be encouraging and that’s how we will win — through communication, being positive and developing our skills,” she said.
Hopefully, the Rams will be able to capitalize on their energy and get their first win during the second half of the season.
“I am a competitive person and I really don’t like to lose,” Pullen said. “Even though it appears that we are losing now, I would have to disagree.”
“We are winning because we are pushing these ladies to be their best,” she went on to say. “If they can believe in themselves as I believe in them, then we will see it in the future. They are experiencing something that only a few players get the opportunity to experience and that’s being a freshman playing varsity.”
Rolesville High is the second school where Pullen has started a volleyball program.
“I knew it would be a challenge, but I love a challenge or I wouldn’t have applied for the position here,” she said.
“There are some improvements we are focusing on to remain competitive and we will continue to work hard daily so that we can see those improvements.”
The Rams will host West Johnston today at 5:30 p.m.