BEULAVILLE – Along with preparing for her final volleyball season at East Duplin, senior Molli Sholar spent time this summer working on her “people skills” and patience during the school’s all-sports leadership camp featuring youngsters from 5 to 13 years old.

“Yesterday we had 49,” Sholar said. “There’s 5 to 9 who have never played volleyball. It tests your patience.”

But she seemed more than up to the test as she raced around the gym with the youngsters or taught them the basics of volleyball using a beach ball.

“I like it,” she said.

What the 17-year-old Sholar likes even more, however, is to compete and win. And with this being her final go-round, Sholar wants to go out a winner and a leader, an attribute she said she worked on this summer.

“This is my season. Make it count,” Sholar said. “I’m a very passionate person. I like to win. I’m kind of like (coach) Liz (Howard) where I’m loud, and so I have to work on channeling that and giving it in a positive way to my teammates.”

Howard smiled when told of Sholar’s comparison.

“Molli’s extremely competitive, and that’s one thing I like about her,” Howard said. “I’m looking for a big season for her in her senior year and just great leadership. She’s grown a lot since her freshman year both in the competitive side of it and the leadership side of it.”

Sholar, who had 180 digs, 22 aces and 21 kills last year go for the Panthers, has high expectations for not only herself but the Panthers, who open the season Tuesday at Swansboro.

East Duplin finished 16-7 and second in the East Central Conference at 10-2 last year, advancing to the second round of the NCHSAA 2-A playoffs.

“Oh, I think we’re going to be good. I’m really excited. We didn’t lose many last year, and a bunch of us played over the winter in Wilmington, Greenville, wherever. Even our JV, they played a lot,” Sholar said. “This team we have really good chemistry. I’m really excited.”

Howard agreed, saying with her depth and experience she will be able to feature “a lot” of schemes and rotations on the court.

“I feel very good if we’ll stay strong and healthy and working hard and consistent,” she said. “We were just young last year in a lot of areas. I lost one senior last year so I’m pretty much bringing everybody back.”

Sholar is the third sister – the others were Kati and Delani – to play for the Panthers. Given her family history in the sport, it’s no surprise that the younger Sholar has been playing volleyball since she can remember.

“My sisters would be in the yard passing the volleyball and I’d be like, ‘Let me, let me.’ They were like, ‘No, you’re too little. Go away,’” she recalled.

Not that deterred her.

“I kind of mushed my way in there until I got to pay,” she said.

Sholar has been playing club volleyball in Greenville since the eighth grade after doing an Internet search for “club volleyball in Eastern North Carolina.”

“I was like, ‘Hey, dad, can I do this?’” Sholar said. “They were shocked because I was kind of a shy person. But I went out there and played it ever since.”

Sholar has played multiple positions for the Panthers. She started out as a libero as a freshman.

“That lasted like two games,” she said.

Then she was put on the front row as a hitter.

“Nothing really spectacular,” Sholar said. “Sophomore year I would hit outside and then pass. So I played all the way around, but still nothing super.”

Last year she played opposite the setter and also hit from the back row, which she expects to do as well this season.

“But we’re also going to have me swinging a lot more,” she said. “I’m left-handed so I’m trying to use that to my advantage. We’ll see how that goes.”

Being a left-hander has its advantages, she said. That is, when she doesn’t get caught up in the moment.

“When I’m blocking somebody it’s like, ‘Oh, crap, what hand are they?’” she said. “We didn’t use my left hand as much as we should have in the past seasons. So we’re really trying to move me around on the front row more, get me swinging.”

Sholar said she liked volleyball from the start, although as the years have passed she’s added another layer to why she remains enamored of the sport.

“I like how quick it is,” she said. “I like if you make a bad pass, you shank it or hit it in the net, you just got move on. You can’t just sit there and dwell on it, and I think that’s a lesson for life, too. If you make a mistake, get over it. You’ve got to keep going, keep pushing through.”

Rick Scoppe can be reached at 910-219-8471 or via email at rick.scoppe@jdnews.com