Chestnut powers North Myrtle Beach volleyball in another run to state

For The Sun NewsJanuary 17, 2014 

Marci Chestnut NMB Volleyball

North Myrtle Beach's Marci Chestnut is the Toast of the Coast Volleyball Player of the Year.

BY CHARLES SLATE — cslate@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

  • The team

    Volleyball Player of the Year

    Marci Chestnut

    Position | Middle Hitter

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Highlights | North-South All-Star selection, Class AAA All-State honoree and Region VII-AAA Player of the Year averaged 14 kills and two blocks per match for the Chiefs, who qualified for a second consecutive Class AAA state finals.

    Rebekah Bowers

    Position | Outside Hitter

    School | Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach

    Class | Junior

    Highlights | Led Saints to the SCISA Class A title by putting up 259 kills, 60 service aces, 97 digs and holding a 2.48 passing average. Named Region III-A Player of the Year.

    Mags Grafe

    Position | Outside Hitter

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Junior

    Highlights | Region VIII-AA Player of the Year and Class AA All-State selection finished her junior season with 166 kills and 40 service aces for the Lower State runner-up Warriors.

    Sienna Herndon

    Position | Setter

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Senior

    Highlights | While also occasionally splitting out to hitter, All-Region VIII-AA and North-South All-Star selection had 68 aces, 71 kills and completed 90 percent of her serves.

    Ellen Johnson

    Position | Outside Hitter

    School | North Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Highlights | North-South All-Star piled up an average of 12 kills per match in helping the Chiefs back to the Class AAA state finals. Also completed 98 percent of her serves.

    Gabby Minervini

    Position | Libero

    School | Waccamaw

    Class | Senior

    Highlights | Helped Warriors to the Class AA Lower State finals by completing 199 of her 216 (92 percent) serve attempts. Named to All-Region VIII-AA team and North-South All-Star roster.

    Shelby Sheets

    Position | Outside Hitter

    School | Myrtle Beach

    Class | Senior

    Highlights | Class AAA All-State and All-Region VII-AAA selection averaged 12.5 kills and three aces per match for Seahawks. Named to two all-tournament teams and helped Myrtle Beach to third round of playoffs.

    Ellissa Smalls

    Position | Middle Hitter

    School | Carolina Forest

    Class | Sophomore

    Highlights | All-State selection 212 kills with a hitting percentage of 28.3. Named the Region VI-AAAA Player of the Year for the Panthers, who won the region title for the fifth consecutive season.

Few expected the North Myrtle Beach volleyball team to have anywhere near the type of success it did last season.

Despite winning the 2012 state title, a new crop of seniors and a first-year head coach were basically not part of the conversation for those contending this fall.

Marci Chestnut made sure people knew this Chiefs team was not an afterthought. The talented senior and Toast of the Coast Volleyball Player of the Year pushed North Myrtle Beach back to the Class AAA championship game.

“It was motivation. Taylor [Allman] and Moriah [Jones] and the seniors we graduated last year were powerhouses,” Chestnut said. “It motivated our team and myself to up our game even more. We had to fill some pretty big shoes.”

North Myrtle Beach accomplished plenty. The Chiefs ultimately lost in the Class AAA state title match to Pickens. However, Erica Allman’s team finished 10-0 in Region VII-AAA play and 21-3 overall. The three losses were to Pickens, Class AAAA runner-up Wando and Bishop England, which has won 14 straight Class AA titles.

During the season, the big-hitting Chestnut averaged 14 kills and two blocks per match. She was named to the North-South All-Star Volleyball team, the Class AAA All-State squad and the Region VII-AAA Player of the Year.

“She made a huge name for herself with her power,” Allman said. “You could always expect her to want to kill the ball every time she got it. There were so many games where she was off the court and she was begging to get back on. That was a huge reason we won.”

Chestnut may have also been one of the biggest beneficiaries of a brutal summer schedule that included two-a-day practices that focused on conditioning and weight training. Allman believed that would be crucial to another deep playoff run.

“I don’t think many of the girls liked me coming in,” Allman said. “We ran and worked out a lot without even touching the court. But Marci, from the get-go, was on board with that. She was set on making it back to the state championship.”

Following all the conditioning work, Allman and Chestnut went to work on polishing the senior’s game. Having played as a junior – and also being a starter for the basketball team – the athletic ability was already there.

At times, though, footwork and technique were still “raw,” as Allman described it. In a short period of time, Chestnut’s abilities soared. She led the team in kills per match, eclipsing 300 total kills for the season, and was second in hitting percentage from her middle hitter position.

Between her time with the Chiefs and the Grand Strand Juniors club team, Chestnut has now created a name for herself as a legitimate college prospect.

In the process, she also helped solidify North Myrtle Beach’s spot near the top of the state’s volleyball scene.

“We had a bunch of doubts,” Chestnut said. “We really beat the odds. It’s sad, but a bunch of people in our community and other teams in our region doubted us. They thought the seniors on last year’s team were basically our team. What they didn’t realize is that the ones sitting on the bench worked twice as hard over the summer. They blossomed from last year.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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