Lilly Eveleth and Ava Palmer have witnessed two Senior Night ceremonies as part of the J.H. Rose varsity volleyball team, so they were not surprised when head coach Norman Cabacar had to fight back the tears when their time came around.
“He always gets emotional,” Eveleth said.
“He cries every year,” Palmer added.
Rose honored its lone two seniors on Tuesday in the Rose Garden before the Rampants closed their regular season with an easy 25-7, 25-,9 25-19 Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference win over Eastern Wayne. Cabacar, shunning his casual coaching attire for a button-down shirt, tie and dress pants, presented flowers to each senior as they joined their families on the court, giving each a hug, then wiping his eyes.
Rose senior Ava Palmer is joined on the court by parents Cathy and John Palmer.
He did not take the microphone — he wrote out his thoughts earlier and let Rose teacher Clay Medlin do the talking.
“I guess the older I’ve gotten the more sentimental I’ve gotten,” Cabacar said. “I’ve told myself one day I will try to speak, but I know if I do I can’t get through it. Clay Medlin does a great job speaking for me. But then I know what I write, and I’m reading in my mind, and I get all choked up when I look at the players and especially the parents.
Rose senior Lilly Eveleth is joined by parents Chris and Heather Eveleth and brothers Parker and Perry.
“The biggest thing is I know they won’t be here the following year, and I always worry the years I had them did I do right by them. That’s the bottom line, if I did right by them.”
Eveleth, a senior co-captain, certainly invested in the Rose program, rarely missing open gym workouts during the summer — which were not mandatory — and providing a consistent complement to Rose’s powerful front line.
“For Lilly, from a freshman to a senior, I can’t recall her ever missing an open gym,” Cabacar said. “Unless she was on a mission trip or something, she was always there. That can-do attitude, she exemplifies it.”
Before Tuesday’s match, Eveleth had 141 sets played, 46 aces among her 476 serves, 432 digs, 636 serve receptions and 65 assists. She was the glue in the middle of Rose’s back line against the Warriors, setting up junior Abby Wordsworth and sophomores Mary Hannah Sawyer and CeCe Wilkerson for a flurry of kills.
Rose coach Norman Cabacar talks with senior co-captain Lilly Eveleth.
“I tried not to let my emotions get to me as much as a I could,” Eveleth said. “It’s been a good four years. I can’t believe it’s my last year, last home game.
“It’s very emotional,” Eveleth said. “I’ve been playing on varsity for three years, but we still have playoffs, so hopefully we’ll be playing home for a few more games.”
Rose locked up second place in the ECC, improving to 17-4 overall and 9-2 in the league — with both losses coming to rival D.H. Conley. The Rampants close the regular season on Thursday at third-place New Bern (12-6, 7-4).
Against Eastern Wayne (5-14, 1-10 ECC), Palmer delivered an early kill, and Wordsworth picked up three points with service lasers as Rose sprinted to a 7-1 lead. Wordsworth also exhibited her dominance at the net, collecting five kills and a block in the first set. Wilkerson added three kills and a block, and Sawyer had two kills.
Rose senior Ava Palmer.
The same trio controlled the net in the second set. Wilkerson had a kill and a block, Sawyer had a kill and a dink, and Holly Gibson delivered a service winner in 7-0 run that extended the lead to 14-4. Wilkerson added two more blocks, Sawyer had three service winners, and Wordsworth had two kills to help close out the set.
Palmer and Eveleth joined freshman Tate Duke and sophomores Katy Bray Carlson, Chloe Manning-Moore and Grace Eberenz on the court for much of the final set, although Wilkerson stepped in for six emphatic kills, including the match clincher. Eberenz had three left-handed kills and Manning-Moore contributed a pair.
That youth bodes well for Rose’s future, but Cabacar will miss having Eveleth and Palmer around.
“Those two, they’re special,” he said. “I’ve had a lot seniors over the years, and they all have their special qualities and things that I’m going to miss. For these two I’m certainly going to miss them.”
Palmer said she will miss the relationships she has built the last three years.
“Definitely the highlight is meeting new people and meeting the girls on the team,” she said. “Everyone is just so fun, and we all have good laughs all the time.”