volleyballfilephoto.jpg

Hickory's Haley Helton (2) fires a serve in this file photo.

With the exception of football, all of the sports programs from the area are well underway in their respective conferences, as boys soccer gets going this week.

It’s the last week of nonconference games in football with many schools taking the week off to gear up for league openers.

Here’s a look at the week ahead.

1) Catawba County Cross Country Championship (Tuesday)

The area’s best high school long-distance runners will be in action Tuesday in the annual Catawba County Cross Country Championship, to be held on the course at Murrays Mill in Catawba. All seven public high schools from the county plus University Christian High are scheduled to participate in the annual event.

A year ago, the Hickory boys ended the four-year reign by St. Stephens by winning the race held at Riverbend Middle School. The team event came down to the fifth-place runner between the two schools, with the Red Tornadoes’ runner finishing two places ahead of St. Stephens to give Hickory the win by three points.

On the girls’ side, Bandys placed four in the top 10 to dominate the team scoring and finished well ahead of second-place Maiden.

Individually, both races are expected to field several talented runners. In the girls’ race, Fred T. Foard’s Karina Coulter is the defending 2A West Regional champion and finished 10th at last year’s 2A state meet. Coulter was the runner-up at last year’s county championship and has already won the Caldwell County Invitational and the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference pre-conference meet this month.

Lauren Buckminster is the top returning runner for Bandys after finishing 22nd in the state as a freshman a year ago. Juniors Rachel Morris and Noelle Poovey of Maiden were third and sixth, respectively, at last year’s county meet.

The boys’ race figures to be a strong one as well, as three of the top five runners from a year ago are expected to run. The top returner from last year’s meet is runner-up Chase Johnson of Hickory. The Red Tornadoes senior finished fourth among a strong group last Wednesday in a Northwestern 3A/4A Conference pre-conference meet. Senior Tyler Christensen of St. Stephens, who was fourth at last year’s county meet, won the NWC event last week and competed in the 3A state cross-country championship. Christensen currently holds the top mark in the state in the 4K event, according to milesplit.com.

Ben Trimm of Fred T. Foard was third at last year’s county meet and went on to place 10th at last year’s 2A regional and 32nd at the 2A state championship. Along with classmate Coulter, the junior also has won races at the Caldwell County Invitational and the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference pre-conference meet this month.

2) East Lincoln at Maiden volleyball (Tuesday)

For much of the time East Lincoln and Maiden have been in a conference together, the Blue Devils have dominated play. In the old Southern District-7 2A Conference, Maiden won nine straight from 2013 to 2016, with all but one coming in a 3-0 sweep.

However, in the last two years the two schools have been together in the South Fork 2A Conference, the Mustangs have been competitive with Maiden across the volleyball net with each gaining a measure of success in the league. The two schools split regular season meetings in 2017 and 2018 with the Mustangs winning the league title ahead of Maiden. However, the Blue Devils won the conference tournament each year, beating East Lincoln in the finals.

After their three meetings in 2018, the two schools looked to be on a collision course for a fourth in the third round of the state playoffs. As an 11th seed, Maiden survived a five-set thriller on the road against R-S Central, but third-seeded East Lincoln was upset at home by No. 14 West Iredell to spoil the party.

As the last two conference unbeatens, Maiden will host East Lincoln for the first of two regular season meetings on Tuesday. The Mustangs are 8-0 overall while Maiden is 8-3, with losses to unbeatens Foard and Watauga, as well as 8-2 South Iredell.

3) Lincolnton at Newton-Conover boys soccer (Monday)

After a 5-0 start to the season, Newton-Conover (5-1-1) has suddenly hit a rut and is now looking for answers, as the South Fork 2A Conference starts this week.

The Red Devils were dominated by Hickory 3-0 back on Sept. 5. Then last Thursday, in what was an emotional night to honor 2014 captain Alan Esperilla, who was killed in an accident in August, they played an improving Fred T. Foard squad to a 2-2 tie.

The dry spell is similar to what Newton-Conover went through in 2018. After the defending 2A state champs started 6-1, the Red Devils lost two straight, which included a South Fork loss to Bandys, their first conference loss since 2015.

The Red Devils nearly began the conference at 2-2 as Lincolnton (11-10 in 2018) came within a bounce of a huge upset.

After playing through a scoreless tie, the two schools put together a show in the penalty kick phase before Newton-Conover finally outlasted the Wolves 7-6. In the return match at Newton-Conover, the Wolves again gave the Red Devils all they could handle before losing 1-0.

Lincolnton enters Monday’s South Fork opener at 4-1 and is looking for its first win over the Red Devils since 2011.

4) Hickory at Watauga girls tennis (Monday)

After Hickory won the 2014 Northwestern 3A/4A crown, the Red Tornadoes chased Watauga the next three years, winding up second behind the Pioneers.

The Red Tornadoes finally overcame their nemesis last year with a 6-0 whitewash and used that as a springboard to run through the league undefeated.

The Pioneers are 3-0 overall while Hickory enters the week at 2-4 as a result of a tough schedule. Both schools won their first conference meet last week and the two, along with South Caldwell, last year’s runner-up, figure to be in the mix for the conference title. The winner Monday gets a leg up in that race along with the top 3A seed for the state playoffs.

5) Fred T. Foard at Draughn volleyball (Monday), East Burke at Fred T. Foard (Wednesday)

After sweeping Hibriten and West Caldwell last week, this is a week that Fred T. Foard could put some distance between it and a pair of contenders. The Tigers lead the Northwestern Foothills 2A at 4-0 with Draughn, East Burke and West Iredell at 3-1. Foard will play Draughn and East Burke this week with the Warriors on the horizon next Monday.

The Tigers have not lost a set in conference play to anybody but West Iredell since 2017 when both East Burke and Draughn each lost 3-1 contests. Coming off a West No. 1 seed a year ago, the Tigers look much the part of a top seed contender again.

Both Burke County schools have made their presence known in the hopes of breaking up the stranglehold the Tigers and West Iredell — last year’s 2A West runner-up — have held on the top spots in the league.

Draughn (8-2 overall, 3-1 NWF) knocked off last year’s 2A West runner-up West Iredell, but then lost to Patton the next day. East Burke (8-1, 3-1) survived a five-set match with Bunker Hill last week and has its only loss to West Iredell.

If either school wants to challenge Foard in the Northwestern Foothills standings, they will need to find a way to get a win this week, or in the rematch in October.

Other to watch:

Boys Soccer:

Freedom at Hickory (Wednesday): Freedom has surprised at 6-2-1 to start, already equaling its win total from last year and surpassing the five in 2017. The Patriots have not won more than eight since 2014. Hickory has a win over Newton-Conover, but was tied last week by East Burke, which is 2-4-1. Freedom’s last win over the Red Tornadoes came in 2013.

Newton-Conover at Bandys (Wednesday): Bandys dealt the Red Devils their first conference loss in since 2015 in their first meeting, then got a tie in a match shortened by a thunderstorm.

West Iredell at Hibriten (Wednesday): Hibriten went unbeaten in the Northwestern Foothills last year. West Iredell’s only two losses in the league were to the Panthers.

Girls Tennis:

Draughn at Fred T. Foard (Monday), East Burke at Fred T. Foard, (Wednesday): Fred T. Foard and East Burke have traded Northwestern Foothills 2A titles the last two years and look to be in the hunt again. Draughn ended East Burke’s three-year run in the Burke County championship last Monday. A sweep by the Tigers would put them in the driver’s seat for the league title.

HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY SCHEDULE

Schedules listed for the four-county region (Alexander Central, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba) are taken from information provided by the athletic departments of individual schools, from information published by the schools on its websites, or on maxpreps.com. Varsity soccer and volleyball matches often follow JV contests, so times listed are approximate. Schedules are subject to change without notice. For more information on an event, contact the school.

WEEK OF SEPT. 16-21

MONDAY, SEPT. 16

FOOTBALL

Ashe County at West Caldwell (resumption of suspended game), 6:30 p.m.

Freedom at Patton, 7:30 p.m.

South Caldwell at Hibriten (resumption of suspended game), 7:30 p.m.

GIRLS GOLF

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference at Orchard Hills (South Caldwell hosts), 3:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Hickory at McDowell, 6 p.m.

St. Stephens at Freedom (Catawba River Soccer Complex), 6 p.m.

South Caldwell at Watauga, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Fred T. Foard at Draughn, 6 p.m.

East Burke at Hibriten, 6:30 p.m.

West Caldwell at Patton, 6:30 p.m.

West Iredell at Bunker Hill, 6:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Maiden, 5 p.m.

Lincolnton at Newton-Conover, 6:30 p.m.

Nonconference

Statesville at Alexander Central, 6:30 p.m.

GIRLS TENNIS

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Alexander Central at Freedom, 4 p.m.

Hickory at Watauga, 4 p.m.

South Caldwell at McDowell, 4 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Fred T. Foard, 4 p.m.

East Burke at Hibriten, 4 p.m.

West Caldwell at Patton, 4 p.m.

West Iredell at Bunker Hill, 4 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Hickory at McDowell, 6 p.m.

St. Stephens at Freedom, 6 p.m.

South Caldwell at Watauga, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

East Burke at Hibriten, 6 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Draughn, 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at Patton, 6 p.m.

West Iredell at Bunker Hill, 6 p.m.

Nonconference

Alexander Central at Davie, 6 p.m.

TUESDAY, SEPT. 17

CROSS COUNTRY

Burke County Championship at Draughn High, 5 p.m.

Catawba County Championship, Murray Mill, Catawba, 5 p.m.

GIRLS GOLF

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference at River Oaks, Statesville (West Iredell hosts), 3:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Nonconference

Bandys at North Iredell, 6 p.m.

GIRLS TENNIS

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at North Lincoln, 4 p.m.

East Lincoln at Newton-Conover, 4 p.m.

Maiden at Lincolnton, 4 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

South Fork 2A Conference

East Lincoln at Maiden, 6 p.m.

North Lincoln at Newton-Conover, 6 p.m.

West Lincoln at Bandys, 6 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 18

GIRLS GOLF

South Fork 2A Conference at Cowans Ford, Denver (East Lincoln hosts), 3:30 p.m.

BOYS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Freedom at Hickory, 6 p.m.

McDowell at St. Stephens, 6 p.m.

Watauga at Alexander Central, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Patton at Bunker Hill, 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at Draughn, 6 p.m.

West Iredell at Hibriten, 6 p.m.

East Burke at Fred T. Foard, 6:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at West Lincoln, 5 p.m.

Newton-Conover at Bandys, 6 p.m.

GIRLS TENNIS

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Freedom at South Caldwell, 4 p.m.

McDowell at Alexander Central, 4 p.m.

Watauga at St. Stephens, 4 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

East Burke at Fred T. Foard, 4 p.m.

Patton at Bunker Hill, 4 p.m.

West Caldwell at Draughn, 4 p.m.

West Iredell at Hibriten, 4 p.m.

Nonconference

Hickory at Maiden, 4 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Freedom at Hickory, 6 p.m.

McDowell at St. Stephens, 6 p.m.

Watauga at Alexander Central, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

East Burke at Fred T. Foard, 6 p.m.

Patton at Bunker Hill, 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at Draughn, 6 p.m.

West Iredell at Hibriten, 6 p.m.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 19

GIRLS GOLF

Hickory, Newton-Conover, St. Stephens at Lake Hickory CC Town Course (Hickory hosts), 3:15 p.m.

GIRLS TENNIS

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Maiden, 4 p.m.

Lincolnton at Newton-Conover, 4 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Lake Norman Charter, 6 p.m.

Newton-Conover at Maiden, 6 p.m.

Nonconference

Alexander Central at Draughn, 6 p.m.

Hibriten at South Caldwell, 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, SEPT. 20

FOOTBALL

Avery County at Draughn, 7:30 p.m.

Burns at Newton-Conover, 7:30 p.m.

Freedom at Crest, 7:30 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at St. Stephens, 7:30 p.m.

Olympic at Alexander Central, 7:30 p.m.

Ronald Reagan at Hickory, 7:30 p.m.

South Caldwell at R-S Central, 7:30 p.m.

West Lincoln at East Burke, 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, SEPT. 21

Alexander Central, Draughn, East Burke, Hickory at Freedom Invitational, 10 a.m.

Get today’s top stories right in your inbox. Sign up for our daily newsletter.

Load comments