A pair of Banks Trail middle sports teams were experiencing the kind of run many professional organizations would wish for: perfection.
The Timberwolves’ eighth-grade volleyball and football teams have been taking on – and defeating – all comers this season. Although headlines tend to favor high-school athletes, Banks Trail athletes are putting in the work to make middle-school history.
Former CSU star leading volleyball domination
It’s hard to blame the seventh-grade Banks Trail volleyball team for losing in the third set of their championship game of 2012 against Rawlinson Road – they had never played a third set before. The Timberwolves, led by rookie coach and former Charleston Southern University middle Cori Hustedt, finished 10-0 in their regular season without losing a single set. After their loss in their season-closing match, Hustedt was promoted up to coaching the eighth-grade side, inheriting several of her old players.
A year later, Hustedt and her girls are in the same position as last year – but hoping for a much different ending.
“It got a bitter taste in their mouth,” Hustedt said. “We wanted to finish strong and win it for them. They had lost their confidence when it got to three sets [in 2012], so I told them to understand that they hate it, so they don’t want to do that again.”
Hustedt says her players adopted a high school-style intensive summer practice schedule that has helped her team’s mental capacity and physical conditioning. Once they got back on the court, the wins began to flow. Dominating two-set wins over Gold Hill, Springfield, Oakridge, Fort Mill and Clover away and at home have set Banks Trail up for a revenge match-up against a Rock Hill opponent in the post-season.
“Our starting six is untouchable right now, they’re great,” Hustedt said. “My four captains, Sidney Hillhouse, Olivia Rivers, Ashley Hill and Rebecca Lee Jordan, they’ve really stepped up to lead the way.”
Hustedt, a Fort Mill graduate, says she “loved” playing for four years at Charleston Southern and experiencing volleyball talent from Chicago to California. Now that she’s back in her hometown, she says she’s enjoying the view from the sidelines just as much as her players.
The team finished the undefeated in the Eastern Division before the championship match to Rawlinson Road Thursday night.
Every Friday, Travis Collier says, his middle-school football team gets a little mad at him. The head coach typically can’t host practice for his eighth-grade squad because he helps out the Nation Ford High School football game each Friday.
Most middle-school athletes would do anything for a day off after their Thursday night games – Collier’s boys (6-0 in 2013) want nothing of the sort.
“It tells me how hard they’ve been working in the weight room, the off-season agility work, we were talking last night about how much that helps them,” Collier said last week.
Banks Trail didn’t complete the season undefeated, but like the volleyball team, the football team set a new standard for wins at the school, now in its third year.
Thanks to players such as running back DeQuez Harris (“the kid scores twice a game, sometimes three,” Collier said) and linebacker A.J. McManus (“awesome on offense and defense”), the Timberwolves will play Dutchman Creek in a bowl game Oct. 30 for second place in the conference.
After an average 2012 campaign in which Banks Trail went 4-4, Collier said the coaching staff has allowed the kids to mature, which has increased his player’s willingness to sacrifice their time for the good of the team.
“That’s been our word for the past three weeks is ‘sacrifice,’” he said. “We treat them like we’re preparing them for the next level.”
Collier has been coaching football at Banks Trail since the school opened three years ago and has worked with some of his kids since they began.
“These guys love each other and they’re a family. I’ve had some very talented groups, a lot of good teams, but they’re talented, plus they’re a family. That’s turned our season around.”