Marsh sets a shot for the Lady Knights. Photo by Edgar Ward.
By Pete Zamplas – Caroline Marsh of North Henderson, the newly-named best female high school athlete in western North Carolina, will put her civic service into motion at the high school this Friday in helping raise money to fight cancer.
The Mountain Amateur Athletic Club honored senior basketball and volleyball star Marsh and others earlier this month, presenting 20 personal and team awards for 2016-17. This was at its 56th WNC Sports Awards Banquet presented by Ingles, in the Omni Grove Park Inn. Erwin’s C.J. Thompson, a basketball and football star, was the top WNC male athlete.
“It’s very shocking” to outdo athletes from larger school across the mountains, she told The Tribune. ‘I’m very proud to represent my school and Henderson County. It’s such a big honor. I couldn’t do it without my teammates and coaches.”
UNC-Wilmington signee Marsh was 3A/2A WNC Athletic Conference player of the year in both basketball and volleyball. She matches Thompson’s two-sport MVP feat he did, in the 3A/4A Mountain Athletic Conference. North, West Henderson and Tuscola join a revamped, all 3A MAC this fall while the WNCAC brings in Hendersonville High.
Six-foot Marsh was quite the killer on the court, in two sports for four years on varsity. In her prep volleyball career she registered 2,281 point-winning slam “kills,” 772 “dig” retrievals, 414 blocks and 136 serving aces.
She typically got 26 kills per match as a senior. She beat double and even triple teams, though often passed to teammates so they “get a kill from anywhere (and anyone) on the court. I’m lucky to have others to rely on.” Just as gratifying as slamming the ball for a winner is timing it perfectly to block the shot of a taller girl, she said. She clears the 7-foot-9-inch volleyball net by two full feet, when leaping with an approach and within three inches of that with her standing 9-6 vertical leap.
In basketball, the power forward paced the Lady Knights at 15.9 points and 11 rebounds. “I like posting up, and going in for layups,” she said. She realizes defense is critical. She appreciates when defenders draw charges, and the team gets fast-break points off of steals.
Both of her sports are fast-paced, and prone to swings in momentum and scoring streaks. She settles herself down by assuring inwardly how “you’ve been doing this for so long. Don’t think about it. You’re fine.”
Like her Coach Sue Moon does, Marsh tries to “get everyone excited” during play, to derive extra effort. The verbal leader cheers teammates by name between volleyball points. “I call then out, let them know when they’re doing good things for the team,” she said. After a goof, she tells a teammate “Shake it off. You got this.” She said at times, a younger player wonders what went wrong. Rather than try to explain it, Marsh tends to simply assure that “you’ll get the next one.”
She emphasizes team success. North reached round two in volleyball and basketball playoffs in three of her four years, and round three two volleyball seasons ago.
Marsh signed with UNCW to play volleyball as an outside hitter just as she was with North and July also the Xcel Volleyball area club based near Fletcher. Combined, she has played volleyball year-round for seven years. She has practiced with NHHS basketball and Xcel volleyball the same days for six hour total, on many nights.
NHHS principal John Shepard described Marsh as a superb team player, and “very hard worker” in the classroom and athletics. The Student Body president ranks fifth in the senior class with a 4.89 GPA, which unweighted is near a perfect 4.0.
“She’s the total package — athletically, academically, leadership and in service,” said Moon, her head coach in volleyball and basketball. “She does it all well. She’s so involved in our school culture. It’s awesome.”
This Friday, Marsh will be part of North’s annual rally on campus in the fundraising fight against cancer. This wraps up Knights vs. Cancer Spirit Week. Moon annually leads this cause, raising $26,000 a year ago for the non-profit Vs. Cancer based in Raleigh. People can deliver checks to Vs. Cancer to the school main office, or at the rally Friday.
Festivities are 5-10 p.m. They start outdoors, near the gym and cafeteria commons area between NHHS and Apple Valley Middle. Booths include face painting and concessions. A corn hole toss contest will be in the auxiliary gym. There will be a dance contest between student female impersonators. Blood donations will be taken, for transfusions to cancer patients.
Cancer survivors are encouraged to show up by 5:30 p.m. Friday, and call the school (697-4500) beforehand. The main ceremony inside the gym begins at 6 p.m. It includes recognizing survivors and recent cancer victims who “lost the fight,” Moon said. The last ceremony, at 9:30 p.m., ends with releasing sky lanterns to float upward.
Marsh beat three other finalists for overall top female athlete. The Asheville Citizen-Times sponsors that award. North had an amazing year tying Brevard for second-most number of finalists at eight, one behind T.C. Roberson.
Coach Moon said that is the most she recalls from North, in decades. In all, 29 WNC high schools are eligible for these awards. Shepard and Moon said they are quite proud of the varied athletic and academic successes at the school, in what turns out to be a banner year.
North’s Teegan Bullock joined Marsh as a finalist for the 3A/4A Female Athlete award in major sports, as opposed to olympic sports. Fiery Bullock was the main passer as basketball point guard and volleyball setter, and also shined in softball.
Bullock was the sole scholar-athlete from the county among 10 in WNC who each earned a $1,500 scholarship.
Basketball Knights were up for best male team in a major sports competing versus Reynolds football and soccer (which won) and Christ School football. Further North finalists were hoops sharpshooter Austin Nelson for best 3A/4A major sport male athlete along with West Henderson soccer star Tyson Hichman, wrestler Josh Blatt as best3A/4A olympic sport male athlete, and wrestling Knights as best male olympic sport squad (Enka wrestlers won).
Volleyball is Henderson County’s greatest athletic legacy in recent decades. Teams from North and West Henderson were half of the field for best 3A/4A major sport female squad.
Hendersonville star receiver, cornerback and return man Tykel Landrum as a junior was a finalist for best 2A/1A major sport male athlete. Brevard senior quarterback Tanner Ellenberger won that honor, for football and baseball. Robbinsville football was honored as a dynasty team.
Edneyville High alumnus and former football coach David Gentry, who leads Murphy, was inducted into the WNC Sports Hall of Fame. Murphy football was 1A/2A best major sport team. Gentry has won more (381) games than any football coach in WNC history, is within 31 victories of the state mark, and won seven state titles.
North’s measuring stick in many sports historically is West. Lady Knights have often been WNCAC runner-up to West in volleyball. This year, North swept West in girls’ hoops but dropped both close contests in volleyball. East Henderson tied North for best in basketball among the four county schools, this time around.
Marsh said a prime reason there is good sportsmanship within the county is female athletes of rival schools join forces in club volleyball play. Thus “I helped people up” after they took a spill on the court. I played versus these girls since we were little. It feels good to win, but also a bit weird. I have fun with them” as teammates later on.
Marsh credits Coach Moon for controlled intensity. “She gets you pumped up.” Moon’s motto varies each season, such as “be phenomenal, or be gone” from playoffs. “She says to do what you can, but have fun.”
Caroline’s parents Lloyd and Dana Marsh both are Arizona Wildcat alums, so Caroline roots for that school in sports. Her three-sport brother Jack will be a North freshman in fall. Their sister Lily will be in seventh grade.
Caroline’s treat is Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream. Her favorite class is anatomy. She wants to major in biology, and be a nurse practitioner or an anesthesiologist. She has good training for that last option, since for four years she has knocked out the hopes of many athletic foes.