Five years ago Anna Heinz, among other Lakewood High School volleyball players, were playing with the Harnett Area Volleyball Club. Her father, Dan Heinz, admits that he would drive his daughter to Lillington two to three nights a week for practice.
“They have an excellent club with great leadership, but the time and travel were taking a toll,” he said. “I decided that we would try to start a club here for our local girls, initially thinking primarily Lakewood girls. Our first season we had a 16U team with nine girls, six from Lakewood and three from Clinton.”
The start up year was a good one, according to Heinz.
“We had a great year,” he said. “The girls bonded quickly and worked very hard. At that time, I did not have a lot of volleyball experience, so we had clinics with Coach Davidson (from Lakewood) and Coach Eddie Mathews from Methodist University. Allen Jackson agreed to assist in coaching too. There was a lot to learn about creating a club, and registering a team with USA Volleyball. There were mandatory coaching clinics and certifications that had to be obtained as well as uniforms and equipment,” continued Heinz.
LAVA (Lakewood Area Volleyball Association) has grown in the area recently, and Heinz feels a few things sparked that growth.
“I think three things sparked the interest,” he admitted. “One of those things is our philosophy on a quality volleyball experience. Another reason is that we are local, and the third is that we are very affordable. Other clubs nearby are 3 to 4 times more expensive,” he said.
Over the first year, there was one team with nine girls. In the second year, it grew to three teams with twenty-six girls, in the third, to six teams with forty-four girls, and this year, there are eight LAVA teams with sixty-seven girls.
This year, LAVA has a 12U, two 13U, a 14U, 15U, two 16U and an 18U for their age groups. They are comprised of girls from Lakewood, Clinton, Hobbton, Midway and Union High Schools, Mintz Christian, New Life Christian, Harrells, Roseboro-Salemburg, Sampson and Midway Middle School.
“We are blessed to have a great coaching staff; Brittany TerMere (13U) and Jordan Tew (15U) from Methodist University,” said Heinz. “Additionally, we have three coaches from Midway, Heather Johnson Valarde, the 16U coach, is in her second year, Jennifer Naylor, the 14U coach, assisted by Amber Poole, a SCC student, and Whitney Lamm, a 16U coach. This is Sheila Davidson from Lakewood’s third year. She has been very instrumental to LAVA’s success. We have Mike Matthews, from the Clement area coaching a 13U who is assisted by Emily Hair, a Midway senior. Anna Heinz and Jamie Jones are coaching the 12U,” said Heinz.
Going forward, Heinz believes that going forward, LAVA will grow even more.
“I believe we will have even more girls trying out next year. I have had several girls from other clubs tell us that they will be joining us,” he said.
“We experienced that this year with four girls,” he continued. “Clearly, gym space and qualified coaches are the big issues going forward. I will be trying to expand our ability to attract qualified coaches. I think that experience that our MU girls have had may lead us to a couple more from there. Next year Anna and Jamie would be able to have their own teams, so we are building for the future.”
Reach Adam Capps at 910-214-9585.