Breanna Smith

Myrtle's Breanna Smith returns a serve in the team's 3-1 win over East Union.

Myrtle’s Breanna Smith never intended to play volleyball this season. The junior was perfectly content with being the team’s manager.

That was until she watched the Lady Hawks’ first match.

“I thought, ‘I’m supposed to be out there,’ ’’ Smith said. “I didn’t know any of the basics. I had to watch people do things … and I’ve gotten better every day.”

Smith, who first started for the junior varsity, moved up to the varsity as a hitter/middle blocker when teammates Charlize Williams and Kinzie Claire Waits were injured.

Smith’s play has helped Myrtle to its 10-3 record and 6-0 sweep of its county rivals this season. She recorded five kills and three service aces in Thursday’s 3-1 win over East Union.

Myrtle coach Robert Gordon noticed Smith hitting the ball during the offseason and thought, “She should be playing.”

Smith, like a lot of first-year players in Union County, has developed a love for the new sport.

“I’m ready to play again next year,” she said. “It’s really exciting and there’s a lot of teamwork. It’s brought a lot of the girls closer.”

Added teammate Lexi Hutcheson, a junior hitter/middle blocker, “I didn’t think I was going to enjoy this as much as slow-pitch. The first couple of days I didn’t really think this was my sport. As we went along I really began to enjoy it.”

Union County’s four schools – East Union, Ingomar, Myrtle and West Union – dropped slow-pitch softball and added volleyball for the 2019-20 school year.

East Union coach Josh Blythe, whose team finished its inaugural season with a 9-12 record, believes volleyball has created a lot of excitement in the county. He was the coach for the school’s defending state champion slow-pitch softball team.

“That first night we played at Ingomar and it goes five sets. It was nuts in there,” he said. “The kids realize how much work’s involved. Overall, it’s going to be a really good thing.

“I know slow-pitch was big. We traded a state championship program for this and I have no regrets. I see how this game is affecting kids.”

Myrtle’s Gordon has seen nothing but positives when it comes to volleyball.

“It was a good decision for us to play,” he said. “We learned a lot about the game. It’s been fun for all of us. The girls feed off emotion. If they’re having fun, it’s exciting to watch. All our fans and families have absolutely fallen in love with it.

“I’ve heard nothing negative about volleyball around the county … zero.”

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