Kate Perryman remembers what it was like being a freshman.
Back in 2017, she was one of only two freshmen on North Forsyth’s varsity volleyball roster, a team that featured two sophomores and one junior.
The rest were seniors.
Now, as she enters her senior year, Perryman once again finds herself outnumbered. The only seniors are Perryman, Alyssa Maxwell and Ana Colon.
The rest are underclassmen.
“I think a big part of it is just treating everyone like they’re a senior,” Perryman said of her leadership role this season. “When I was a freshman, I was really welcomed – and there were 10 seniors on the team. Coming into that I was like, ‘I don’t know.’
“It’s just been really great because they’re all amazing, they play really, really well and really hard, so you can’t really be made at a freshman that wants to work hard and wants to be on the court.”
So well, in fact, that the Raiders are 10-0 this season, sweeping Chestatee (25-9, 25-11) and Creekview (25-13, 25-20) Tuesday night to keep their undefeated record intact.
Head coaches Drew and Kelly Cecil saw North’s youth as a strength entering the season; they just weren’t sure how long it would take their five freshmen to adapt to the varsity level.
North’s five freshmen are Brooke Crummel, Lily Torrence, Greenlee Welch, Lauren Holcomb and Melina Baumann.
“They all play yearround, and they’re used to being successful against girls their age, but it’s different when they step on the floor against 16- or 17-year-olds for the first time,” Kelly Cecil said. “Just within this first week and a half with them, actually playing matches, we were waiting to see if they were going to step up to that challenge, and they have.”
North won the Kick-Off Klassic in Alpharetta this past weekend, beating Chapel Hill, North Hall, Dalton, and The Habersham School twice to claim the title.
Crummel, an outside hitter, tallied a season-high seven kills against North Hall, then topped that figure about an hour later, racking up nine kills against The Habersham School.
Crummel combined to hit .424 in those two matches.
“We kind of made a little tweak to our lineup this weekend, and she woke up. She came into this season just from this weekend and finally showed up,” Kelly Cecil said. “She’s definitely been making an impact since Saturday. We’re excited about what she’s been able to do.”
Perryman watched Crummel rise through the middle school program and anticipated playing with Crummel, despite being three years older.
Both players stand 6-foot-2 and have similar attributes on the court.
“She was pretty good to begin with, just like raw talent. Then she started playing club, and it was just really exciting to see her, because now she’s like so amazing. She’s way better than me when I was a freshman,” Perryman said with a laugh. “It’s just really cool to have that same type of balance on the court.”
Perryman, the Area 5-7A Offensive Player of the Year in 2019, set a new school record for blocks in a season the past three years (111 in 2019, 106 in 2018, 101 in 2017).
Through 16 sets, she owns a team-high 80 kills and is hitting an impressive .401.
“She’s definitely more confident,” Kelly Cecil said of Perryman. “I think she’s having that senior year, knowing that nobody has that leadership above her. She feels comfortable leading and taking those freshmen under her wing, too. She’s stepped up and has definitely improved from last season.”
North also has leadership among its sophomore class, with Nathalia Quintero returning as the team’s setter.
Quintero was voted the Area 5-7A Co-Freshman of the year last season, finishing with 323 assists and 53 aces, the third-highest total in the area.
“She really has gotten a lot better,” Perryman said of Quintero. “Last year we had pretty good chemistry, just because we were on the court most of the time together. This year she’s really come into her own and really stepped up. She’s really come into a leadership role herself, just being the setter and the quarterback of the floor.”
North will get a test this weekend at the Coosa Invitational in Rome, where the Raiders will face a LaFayette team that reached the Class 4A Final Four last season.
How the Raiders fare in area play next month, however, will largely be determined by the growth of their vast freshman class.
“It was all kind of hanging on them, whether they were going to step up or not, and if our seniors were going to lead, too,” Kelly Cecil said. “They’ve all done such a good job.”