One doesn’t have to look long in the Carolina Forest gym to see all the school’s volleyball program has accomplished.
Since opening in 1994, it has established quite the winning tradition, earning seven outright region championships during that span.
But these days it is the region championship not included on the banner that has the Panthers’ full focus.
The past two seasons, Socastee has taken the place once occupied by its Horry County rival, sharing the 2014 league crown with Carolina Forest and claiming the title outright a year ago.
So when the Braves paid a visit Tuesday night for the first of two matchups between the local powerhouses, the Panthers were eager to set a tone as to who is the top dog in Region VI-5A.
Asserting its dominance, Carolina Forest got a leg up on its region foe with a 3-0 victory over Socastee.
“We were disappointed last year (that we didn’t come away with the region title),” said Carolina Forest volleyball coach Brittany Drew. “But we’re looking at it as ‘you have to fall once, to get back up.’
“We have this ambition this year that we’re going to get it back this year, dominating in three games in all our region matches. Hopefully that is something we can do all season.”
After earning an easy 25-11 win in the first game, the Panthers’ strategy to share the wealth among different players paid off, keeping Socastee (7-6, 2-2) well off balance.
“We’ve been working hard on distributing the ball with all our hitters, leaving opponents guessing as to who is going to get set and who will put it away for us,” Drew said. “Honestly, it is just us utilizing every hitter we have.”
Cruising to a 25-13 victory in the second, Carolina Forest (15-4-2, 4-0) experienced more of a seesaw affair in the third game, Socastee desperate to keep the match going. After falling behind by as many as six points, the Braves battled back to tie the game at 11.
But as good teams tend to do, the Panthers outscored Socastee 14-4 down the stretch to put a bow on another victory – remaining undefeated and leading the league.
“They just weren’t here tonight, things just didn’t click… it was a tough night for us,” said Socastee volleyball coach Kristi Garrett. “That’s one advantage that Carolina Forest has over us, in that with all the girls playing in club together they know how each other plays, where each other likes the ball and where they’ll be at in certain situations.
“They have some big girls up front, and we have a few that are new up front, and they took advantage of that.”
Alexis Tomlin led the way for Carolina Forest with 14 kills, 15 digs and 17 service points. Kenzlie Andresen added 12 kills while Hope Goodwin had 11 service points.