“She’s a freshman!”
The chant echoed from the Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ volleyball team’s bench shortly into the third set of its sweep over Silver Lake last week.
That freshman is Caroline Gray, who was doing what she’s done all season: dominating. The first-year Panther was in the midst of a 10-point serving streak to put the Lakers away. She also went on a nine-point run in the first set, to go along with 21 assists from her setter position.
Volleyball is in Gray’s blood. Her dad, Josh, was the head coach at W-H from 2012-16. And you bet she tagged along with him.
“I always used to go to the games and after school I’d go to the practices and help out there,” Caroline said. “It was really cool.”
Not only did she attend practice, but she took the court, too.
“I practiced down balls from some of best hitters on the team,” she said. “It helped me a lot advance in the sport. I got to get ahead of my age.”
Her dad had a few pointers for her coming into first high school season, too.
“He just said take control of the court,” Caroline said. “Communicate all the time and be confident in yourself because you want to be assertive on the court and know what you’re doing.”
She sure does. Caroline has tallied a team-high 167 assists through the Panthers’ first 10 matches, in which they’re 7-3. She had 42 of them in a 3-2 win over Hanover and another 38 in a 3-1 triumph over Pembroke.
“With Caroline, you just see endless potential,” said W-H head coach Samantha Richner. “She works hard. She always wants to improve her game. You can tell she cares a lot about it.”
Setter is a spot Caroline has grown into. She was both an outside hitter and setter in club volleyball. Then she heard the high school team was graduating both of its setters and switched exclusively to the position last winter.
“After losing Sophia [Berardinelli] and Caileen [Hurley], who we on the team for four years, we were worried going into the season,” Richner said. “But Caroline’s filled those shoes well.”
W-H senior captain Lily Welch agrees.
“We thought a setter was something that we would lack and struggle with this year and she stepped up huge,” Welch said. “I think her success comes from hard work.”
She’s seen Caroline’s commitment to the game up close.
“Her dad ran clinics for us last spring and Caroline and I had a lot of late nights working together in the gym,” Welch said. “Our chemistry definitely comes from those nights and she barely missed any volleyball during the summer either.”
W-H is back in action Friday, Oct. 8 when it hosts Plymouth South at 5 p.m.
“I just want to enjoy the season and get to know all the players even more and we really want to go to the tournament,” Caroline said.