High School Sports

Daughter of former UNC basketball star Eric Montross set on winning titles of her own

Carrboro volleyball hasn't lost in almost two years

Carrboro High School senior setter Sarah Montross is one of the Jaguars' new leaders, and the team is still rolling.
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Carrboro High School senior setter Sarah Montross is one of the Jaguars' new leaders, and the team is still rolling.

It’s easy to spot Sarah Montross’ father in the stands at a Carrboro High volleyball game.

But if you’re more focused on the court, it’s even easier to see Sarah’s impact.

The upbeat and unselfish senior captain, who’s the daughter of Eric Montross – the former UNC basketball star, has the Jaguars back in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A volleyball championship for the second straight year. Carrboro hasn’t lost since the final four of the 2015 playoffs and has now won 60 straight matches (the state record is 79, and 76 is second).

Sarah engineers the Jags’ attack, mixing up her passes to outside hitters and keeping the opposing team guessing as to where she’ll go with the ball next. But she’s also an emotional catalyst for the team, the one who brings everyone together.

“Sarah is probably the nicest player I’ve ever had. She’s great to everybody,” Carrboro coach Steve Scanga said. “And being a setter, having the kind of person that everyone connects with is wonderful, because they’re kind of the brains of your team, they’re like the quarterback.”

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Carrboro celebrates a point during the last set, from left to right, Diana Alcox, Elizabeth Ollila, Destiny Cox and Sarah Montross. The Carrboro Jaguars played the Cardinal Gibbons Crusaders in a volleyball match that took place in Carrboro, N.C. on Thursday, August 25, 2016. Carrboro won 3-2. News & Observer 2016 File Photo newsobserver.com

Sarah’s father Eric is the 7-foot former UNC basketball center who helped lead the Tar Heels to two final fours and the 1993 national championship. He was the ninth pick overall in the 1994 NBA draft and played for six teams before retiring after the 2002 season. He’s now a major gift director with The Rams Club at UNC.

Eric won one national title in college, and Sarah could bring home her second high school title if the Jaguars (30-0) defeat West Iredell (27-3) Saturday in the 2:30 p.m. game at Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State.

It’ll be the last varsity volleyball game Sarah plays. She’s turned down offers to play in collegeand wants to play for the club team at UNC.

Eric never pressured his daughter, who’s 5-10, to try basketball.

But she did anyway, and it didn’t go well.

“I did (basketball) camps and stuff when I was younger, but when I got to middle school I thought ‘No, this is not for me,’ ” Sarah said.

There was something about the team aspect of volleyball that appealed to her more. She found her place.

“It didn’t bother me a bit,” Eric said. “The biggest thing for me is watching her enjoy something, and sports was one of the things she was beginning to enjoy. ... I’ve always loved kids who have a variety of interests and when it’s your own child you just want them to enjoy what they’re doing. She was enjoying volleyball the most of the sports she was doing, and she tried everything under the sun.”

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Former UNC basketball star Eric Montross speaks to an assembly of about 200 fathers and their kids in 2012 during the first day of the annual Eric Montross Father's Day Basketball Camp. News & Observer 2012 file photo News & Observer

Eric has become quite the volleyball dad.

Over the last two years, he’s made it to almost every game, home or away. There haven’t been too many scheduling conflicts at his job with the Rams Club at UNC.

Though basketball and volleyball are different sports, some of the terminology is the same.

Eric’s game was more about blocks, with 275 in his NBA career.

Sarah has just nine of those this year.

Eric had 207 assists in his NBA career.

Sarah has 715 this season.

“She has such a focus on team and the success of the team and the deference to things that she does well,” Eric said. “She wants to lift up her teammates and for us it’s really thrilling to watch that because she takes her passion and shares it with her teammates. As someone who loves sport and loves team sports, it’s fun for me to see that in my child.”

J. Mike Blake: 919-460-2606, @JMBpreps

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