Somewhere in Sam Hunter’s legendary video archives is a tape of his daughters learning to play volleyball in the backyard.
Heather Hunter, 21, picked up the game as a freshman in high school, and Evie Hunter, 18, started in the seventh grade.
It only was seven years ago that Heather began, and for kicks, the pair of sisters recently re-watched that tape.
It was terrible.
And also encouraging.
“We actually looked back on it a while ago, and we were, like, ‘Oh, my God, this is horrible,’” Heather said.
“I guess we’ve come a long way, right?” Evie said.
That would be an understatement for the Hunter sisters, now regulars for N.C. Wesleyan.
And while Heather didn’t think much of her volleyball abilities in that first season at Rocky Mount High, she had an admirer: N.C. Wesleyan coach Robin Pietryk, who loved Heather’s attitude and work ethic. “I actually, believe it or not, saw it her freshman year. My assistant at the time told me I was nuts and I didn’t know what I was talking about,” Pietryk said. “I said, ‘She has got a good work ethic. I think she can be a good defensive player for us.’”
After four years at Rocky Mount, Heather wanted to keep playing volleyball but didn’t know if the opportunity to make a college team would happen.
She chose N.C. Wesleyan independent of volleyball and has turned into one of the Bishops’ major players this year as a senior.
Going against girls from Virginia, Raleigh and Charlotte made Heather question her abilities as a defensive specialist, but Pietryk said Heather has turned into everything the team needs from a defensive specialist.
“To be honest with you, they’re the most important player on the team,” Pietryk said. “If you can’t get the ball up, then what good is the setter? What good is the hitter? There’s nothing to hit or set if the defense can’t get the ball up.”
This season has been a struggle for a young N.C. Wesleyan team.
The Bishops have only six wins, and a roster with nine freshmen still is in the process of becoming a competitive team.
The crux of this N.C. Wesleyan team hopes to see its success in years to come, but that’s OK with Heather, who isn’t concerned about the record even though this is her final season.
“All the girls are super talented, but for me, I want to teach them how to be good teammates,” Heather said. “I want to be a good influence through that and lead through my actions. That’s what’s important to me this year.”
Evie had a choice of her own to make. A versatile star at Rocky Mount, Evie had the chance to play elsewhere.
With everything she wanted at N.C. Wesleyan, though, there was no reason to stray from home.
“(Heather) had a big role. I was comfortable already with the campus, the coaches and the team and players that were coming back,” Evie said. “I knew when I graduated I wanted to be close to her and play volleyball still.”
The two sisters live in the same building, borrow each other’s clothes and pick each other when the Bishops need to pair up in drills.
And to Pietryk’s amazement, the Hunter sister always get along. There’s no arguing.
“I’ve had sisters before, and they had a tendency to fight. Not these two,” Pietryk said. “Sometimes, those two – it’s unbelievable. I’m like, if that were my sister, I would have been arguing with her by now.”
The two only played one game together at Rocky Mount, but they have had an entire year at N.C. Wesleyan, something they have both cherished.
“We’re making the most of this year,” Evie said.
“We were super close before, but I think we’re even closer now,” Heather said. We’re pretty much inseparable.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org