MURRELLS INLET — When Taylor Allman spikes a ball, the sound resonates. Then the gym goes quiet, followed by the looks and chatter in the stands.
Yes, Tuesday was a typical night on the volleyball court for the North Myrtle Beach star outside hitter.
“Taylor Allman, I think she had like 14 kills tonight,” Chiefs coach Estelle Barentine said following her team’s three-game (25-10, 25-11, 25-4) win over St. James. “I think she’s probably the best player in AAA.”
Allman first caught Barentine’s eye as a middle-schooler. Four years later, she is the main cog for a dominant Chiefs squad (22-1, 9-0 Region VII-AAA) that is one of the best in the area and perhaps among Class AAA’s elite.
“These girls have been playing for me for quite a few years. Taylor Allman started in eighth grade. She’s a senior. I have five seniors, four start, so it always helps to have senior leadership,” Barentine said.
And it all starts with Allman. Friends, family, and fans show up each match to watch her. On Tuesday night, she had another spectator – Coastal Carolina assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Gabe Aramian, one of several college coaches who have taken interest in Allman this year.
“Oh yeah, she’s definitely going to play in college,” Barentine said. “In fact, [a] coach from Coastal was here. She wants to go there, definitely.”
The bulk of Allman’s kills came in Game 1, setting the tone for another dominating performance by the Chiefs.
North Myrtle Beach certainly has been a force this year and region opponents know they’ll have their hands full when the Chiefs are in the building.
“A little bit,” St. James Lindsay Mayer said of whether there is an intimidation factor in facing the Chiefs. “I told [my players] to go in not knowing who North Myrtle Beach was, to get that out of their heads and not even think about who they are, and just play as if they were playing any other team.”
However this year, the Chiefs are not just any other team.
North Myrtle Beach was knocked out in the second round of the playoffs a season ago entering as a No. 2 seed. This time around, the Chiefs will go in as the undisputed top team out of Region VII.
“We’ve been preparing for the state playoffs. We’ve been doing that all season. Our intensity increases,” Barentine said. “Just because we win this regional, that’s nice to do but that’s not our goal. Our goal is to get to the state finals.”
St. James, meanwhile, has its sights set on locking up the No. 2 spot out of the region. For that to even be possible, the Sharks (6-3) must beat Socastee (7-2) on the road Thursday.
“[The game’s] extremely important for the fact that it will decide whether we are a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed,” Mayer said.
Alexis Gunnell had four kills, Kelly Williams and Courtney Settle had two each for St. James on Tuesday.
In addition to Allman’s output, Ellen Johnson had 13 kills, Marci Chestnut had eight kills and four blocks and Tara Hix contributed 27 assists for the Chiefs, who are playing at a high level as the playoffs near.
“They want it. They’re hungry,” Barentine said.
Contact JOSH BELL at 626-0385.