Randi Robertson looks up at the banners hanging in the Patrick Henry Community College gym commemorating the 2015 and 2016 Patriots volleyball teams, both of which won Region X titles.
Robertson was a member of those teams, and has fond memories of her time in the blue and yellow jersey. After graduating from PHCC, she moved on to Radford University. Even though she decided not to continue her volleyball career, she received a biology degree and graduated in May. During that time, she also helped coach several travel volleyball teams across southern Virginia.
As she looks as the championship banners, Robertson now has dreams of adding to them. She was hired as the Patriots volleyball coach during the offseason, and has already made a positive impact with the team. PHCC started the season with a Region X win over Southside Virginia Community College, and a 5-set loss to Surry Community College, an NJCAA Division II school that has swept the Patriots in each meeting for the last three years.
Even with the loss, taking Surry, a perennial power, to five sets was a huge boost for the Patriots.
“It’s a pretty big deal for us as a team because we haven’t taken a set off of Surry since I was playing in 2015,” Robertson said this week at a practice. “It was nice. It started off really fiery and fun so I was excited for it and I’m excited to see where these girls go because they’ve got a lot of potential.”
Patrick Henry has seen a lot of success on the volleyball courts in recent seasons, thanks in large part to a roster made up of mostly local talent. This season, it’s nothing but local talent, with all 10 players coming from Patrick County, Magna Vista, and Bassett High Schools.
Robertson said her players have commented that this year’s team already has more chemistry than last year. While she said she and assistant coach Lee Orr made sure to find players who are not only talented but also coachable, she thinks a lot of that chemistry comes from the fact the players all either played against or with each other in high school.
“I think it’s helped a lot,” she said. “It’s kind of funny that you get all these girls from competitive schools playing against each other and being rivals and then all of them getting together.
“Chemistry-wise I think it helps they’re all from the same area because they’re comfortable and they’re not outcasts or anything. I just think they’re a really great group of girls honestly. I don’t know if it’s necessarily where they come from. They’ve all got these personalities that mesh really well together so it was really nice. And they’re coachable, they listen, they really try.”
The Patriots have a nice mix of offense and defense, with their biggest focus being ball control, tweaking the little things, and becoming more clean players.
Outside hitters Savannah Roberts, a freshman, and Shelby Bryant, a sophomore, both Patrick County graduates, will help with the Patriots offense this season.
“They’re phenomenal. They’re great. So offensively I think we can definitely dominate there too,” Robertson said.
Defensively, libero Cameryn Blair, a Magna Vista graduate, and setter Ashlea Havens, from Patrick County, will lead the way, with Emily Ray and Emily Maxey, both from Magna Vista, up front.
“Ashley … She really stepped up and a did a great job defensively. And Cameron, she just goes. It’s quite funny. She’s fast and she’s quick. I think defensively we’re strong because of them two,” Robertson said. “Emily Ray and Emily Maxey are just dominant on the blocking and really putting up that wall.”
“Really the team as a whole has got so much potential in general.”
After leaving three years ago, Robertson said she never thought she’d come back and get a chance to be part of the program again. But when the opportunity presented itself, she couldn’t say no.
Now, as she looks at the banners on the wall, she has a chance to not only be a member of the two most successful teams in school history, but she has a chance to lead them to that level again.
“I’d love to get those rings again,” Robertson said. “The last time we got ring-rings, winning our actual tournament championship, was when I played back in 2015 and 2016. I think these girls have the potential to do that. I really think they could take it. It’s right within our reach, I think we just need to grasp it.”
PHCC will take on Surry again on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Dobson, North Carolina.
Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.