06/03/04 — Winning tradition, team unity and Jell-O

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Winning tradition, team unity and Jell-O

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on June 3, 2004 1:55 PM

LAGRANGE -- "Nobody likes to lose."

North Lenoir short stop Leslie Oliver's statement is obvious to any sports fan, but Oliver and her teammates take the matter quite seriously -- so are female athletes across the board at the LaGrange high school.

The numbers prove it.

Over the last three years in volleyball, basketball and softball, Lady Hawks' teams have won seven of nine Class 2-A Eastern Plains Conference championships in those sports. This past fall, the volleyball team advanced to the eastern regional final -- marking the first-ever trip that far for a girls sport at North Lenoir.

The girls soccer team earned trips to the playoffs two straight years and won a conference title for the first time this season with a strong core of young talent.

Juniors Oliver and Randi Moulton have never lost a conference volleyball or softball game under head coach Heather Humphrey.

A majority of the Hawks' 2-A Final Four-bound roster are multi-sport athletes with a history of winning. Again, they've put themselves in good position to add more impressive hardware to the North Lenoir trophy case this weekend at Walnut Creek.

"We are almost there," said Oliver, one of seven juniors on the North Lenoir roster. "We've got three games. Knowing that is the only thing before a championship ring ... it's the best feeling in the world."

"We made it this far, why give up now," Moulton said.

Obviously North Lenoir is in a special period where it is blessed with talented female athletes. It doesn't take long to notice that with a visit to any of the athletic facilities on game day.

But, winning clearly takes more than just great players. Coach Heather Humphrey praises their personal commitment to practicing hard and putting in work in the offseason.

"A lot of it has to do with the commitment that they have," Humphrey said. "They don't make excuses, they come to practice and they enjoy it. They come and they want to be here.

"The conditioning we do in the offseason also helps, and we just started a girls weight program last year."

The Lady Hawks also benefit from strong community support across the board.

"The parents back you up 100 percent," Moulton said. "Even if it's not our parents, the baseball parents and coaches from all the sports come to watch us play. It makes you feel really good."

A feeling of sisterhood surrounds the team as well -- literally. Humphrey coaches her sister and ace pitcher Hermia, and is like a sister to the rest of her players. Pre-game meals are used not only for physical nourishment but for bonding as well.

"We always go eat at Subway before home games," Oliver said. "We always eat together, and she will bring things like Jell-O during volleyball season and incorporates it into the game. Jell-O means you move together."

As juniors, both Moulton and Oliver are confident they can help continue the success that after this run is over into their senior season. They also realize that the trip to Walnut Creek isn't something to take for granted, especially in their final run with Hermia Humphrey on the mound.

"I feel confident with Morgan (Worthington) and Brittany (Sanders) coming behind her as pitchers, but they aren't Hermia," Oliver said. "When you are in a jam, she's always there to get us out of it."

Should the Hawks run into some of those jams this weekend, their team unity and winning attitude will also go a long way in pulling them through.

Saturday's games

East regional championship

Game 1 -- North Lenoir (25-2) vs. Elizabeth City Northeastern (12-7), 6 p.m.

West regional championship

Game 2 -- East Bend Forbush (27-1) vs. East Davidson (21-4), 6 p.m.

Double-elimination round

Game 3 -- Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 8:30 p.m.

Game 4 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 8:30 p.m.

Sunday's games

Game 5 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m.

Game 6 -- Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 4:30 p.m.

Game 7 -- if necessary, 7 p.m.