Debbie Evans in hall of fame
Published 8:50 am Thursday, August 10, 2017
Debbie Evans starred in – pay attention, young’uns – not two, not three, but four sports during her Davie High career.
Evans played volleyball in the fall. She played basketball in the winter. She played slow-pitch softball and track in the spring. As a senior in 1989-90, she was an all-Central Piedmont Conference performer in all four. Yes, read that sentence again.
Evans came along near the end of the three-sport era. (We note again, she played four.) Being that good in that many sports was phenomenal even in Evans’ era.
Evans is soft-spoken and unassuming. She has trouble tooting her own horn. If she talks about her accomplishments, it’s because somebody has asked her.
“It was the way I had always done,” Evans said when asked about going from one sport to the next. “Whatever was in season, that’s what I was playing. I enjoyed playing them all and being able to switch from one to the other.”
Your favorite sport? “Probably softball,” she said. She graduated seven years before the arrival of fast-pitch softball in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, although she played plenty of fast-pitch ball outside of school. “It was probably the sport I was most natural at.”
How did Evans squeeze in a fourth sport? When the bell sounded to end school days in the spring, she headed to track practice first.
“I would work on shot put and discus for about 30 minutes,” she said. “Then I’d head to Rich Park (for softball practice).”
At one point during the spring season of her senior year, Evans was undefeated in the shot put and discus and hitting a mind-boggling .700 in softball. She racked up six all-conference patches despite a knee injury that completely stole one season and cut another season in half.
As one of the strongest multi-sport athletes in Davie history, Evans and four others will be enshrined in the Davie High Athletic Hall of Fame on Sept. 22. Roger Pierce (1964), Bill Evans (1962), Ronnie Foster (1966) and Seth Grooms (2002) are the others.
“It is an honor,” Evans, 45, said. “I had a lot of good times coming through here.”
Evans arrived at Davie as a heralded prospect after dominating the same four sports at North Davie Junior High. Davie was a three-year school in those days, with freshmen attending North Davie and South Davie.
• As a sophomore, Evans helped coach Denny Key and the War Eagles claim the CPC Tournament – marking the volleyball program’s first title in six years. Davie went 14-6 overall and 9-3 in the CPC. After finishing third in the regular season, Davie had to win three matches in the tournament to earn the second and final playoff berth. Top-seeded Reynolds was upset by Kannapolis in the semifinals, opening the door for upstart Davie, which knocked off North Davidson, West Forsyth and Kannapolis to claim the prize. In the final against Kannapolis, Davie squeaked out an 11-15, 15-12, 15-13 decision. In the first round of the 4-A playoffs, Davie lost at Crest in three sets. Davie’s next CPC title would not come until 14 years later (2001). The all-CPC players from Davie were seniors Sara Odum and Tracy Angell.
• Evans’ junior volleyball season was completely wiped out by a knee injury suffered the previous April during softball/track season. She sustained the injury while competing in a weekend volleyball tournament at Catawba.
“I jumped, got offbalanced and the whole leg twisted,” she said then. “I felt like my knee snapped apart. It felt funny, but I walked on it that day and it didn’t hurt.”
The next morning, she awakened to pain. She couldn’t bend the swollen knee. She had torn cartilage and her ACL was partially torn. She was forced to strap a large knee brace around her leg.
With Evans out of action, the 1988 volleyball team, coached by Matt Wilson, went 10-6 and 8-4 to finish second in the CPC.
• As a senior in the fall of 1989, Evans made up for lost time, leading coach Angie Browder Jarvis’ volleyball team to 12-4 and 10-2 in the CPC, second to 12-0 West Forsyth. Davie absorbed a knockout blow in the first round of the playoffs, losing in four sets to visiting Crest. It was the fourth first-round loss in as many years.
Evans was named team MVP. Evans and fellow senior Stephanie Ebert made all-conference.
“Debbie was one of the most consistent players in the league,” Jarvis said then. “She could bump, set and spike effectively. She was a very good server. Debbie just did everything for our team. When we needed a big play, she usually got it for us.”
• As a sophomore in 1987-88, Evans played on Bill Peeler’s 28th and final team. He would retire with 445 wins. That team went 12-13 and 8-5 for third in the CPC. Evans’ finest hour came in a 58-39 upset over South Rowan. She compiled 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Shawn Smoot (13.5 points per game) and Beth Mashburn (10.6) made all-conference. Evans was a key role player who averaged 7.5 points.
• The 1988-89 basketball team returned to glory in Browder’s first year as Peeler’s successor. After finishing second in the regular season, the War Eagles seized the CPC Tournament, winning 61-45 over Reynolds. In the first round of the 4-A playoffs, Davie (14-8) dug a 23-6 hole, rallied furiously, but fell short 60-57 to Olympic. Smoot – a senior guard who averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds – won CPC Player of the Year. Senior forward Mashburn (13.5 points and 8 rebounds) and senior guard Shannon Jordan (11.7 points, 4.5 assists) made all-conference. Evans contributed 2.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists.
• The 1989-90 War Eagles took a step back (9-15, 4-9 CPC) in Jarvis’ second season. Evans battled knee problems all season.
“Debbie’s only going at about 80 percent right now,” Jarvis said then. “However, I still have to play her a lot. We need her in there.”
Evans had her moments while wearing the large brace, with 16 points in a win over West Rowan. In a 35-33 comeback win over North Rowan, she accounted for 13 of Davie’s 15 points in the fourth. She also stole North’s inbounds pass right before the final horn, her fifth steal in the fourth alone. Jill Osborne (nine-point average) and Evans (eight) made all-conference.
• Evans’ flame burned bright in four sports, but it burned brightest in softball. Her coach in 1988, Key, marveled at her depth of skills as a sophomore.
“She can field, hit and throw,” Key said then. “That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
In the CPC opener against Mt. Tabor, the third baseman blasted two homers. The knee injury from the weekend volleyball tournament at Catawba, however, sidelined Key’s young star for a month, preventing her from playing in a doubleheader for the ages. On the final day of the regular season, Davie was 12-2 overall and 11-1 in the CPC. It was headed to North Davidson, which was 18-0 and 12-0. Before the game in Welcome, Key said: “They have no weaknesses. We’re not supposed to win. North’s entire team could be all-conference.”
As it turned out, North was not invincible. After falling behind 4-0 in the first inning of game one, Davie stormed back for a 5-4 win that ended North’s perfect season. Davie held a 5-2 lead in game two, but lost 6-5 in eight innings. Thus, Davie (13-4, 12-2) finished one game behind North in the standings.
“I feel like we came out looking better than they did,” Key said afterward. “We came very close to beating an undefeated team twice on their own field.”
In the first round of the playoffs, Davie ran into Olympic on the road, flopping 8-0 to the 22-3 Trojans. After a miserable start, Key threw the injured Evans into the fray. But he quickly took her out as the game got out of hand.
“She was really restricted in her movement, and when it got to 7-0 I took her out,” Key said then. “I didn’t want to take a chance of her getting hurt in a game like that.”
Five juniors – catcher Ginger Hall (.500 average), first baseman Samantha Simpson (.400), shortstop Buffy Beck (.464), second baseman Sheri Mason (.400-plus) and leadoff batter/outfielder Lora Smith made all-conference. The bad knee was likely the only reason Evans did not make it.
“If Debbie hadn’t been hurt, she had a chance at being all-conference,” Key said then.
• Davie had one heck of a team in 1989 under new coach Darrell Steele. There were seven senior starters (Amy Reynolds, Hall, Simpson, Mason, Beck, Smith and Ivey Clontz). Evans homered in the season opener. Evans and Beck launched back-to-back homers in one game. Simpson reeled off an eight-game hitting streak. Davie revved up for another regular season-ending showdown with North Davidson by clicking off 13 straight wins. Going in, both teams were 16-1 and 12-0. But despite its vast experience and depth, Davie frittered away an opportunity to at least share the title, losing both games (4-3, 7-5). North was in the midst of a 155-20 run under coach Mike Lambros, who directed the Black Knights to their fourth straight CPC title. Davie finished second for the second year in a row.
“Davie has got the super team this year,” Lambros said then. “Let’s face it. We got every single break today.”
Then Davie (14-4) let its first-round game at North Forsyth slip away. Going into the bottom of the fifth, it was ahead 3-0 and N. Forsyth was getting no-hit. Davie would lose 5-3.
“This should have been our year,” said a dejected Steele. “We had the experience and the talent.”
Evans, who paced Davie with a .478 average, was all-conference along with seniors Mason, Beck (.421), Simpson (.412), Smith and junior Carla Dyson.
“What didn’t she do for us?” Steele said of Evans. “She can play anywhere we need her.”
• In 1990, Davie didn’t have to deal with North Davidson because the Black Knights dropped to 3-A in realignment. But first place still eluded Davie as it finished 11-6 and 11-3, tying South Rowan for second as West Forsyth walked away with the hardware at 12-2. It was a third straight second-place finish for Davie.
Evans delivered one incredible performance after another. She cranked homers against North Davidson, South Rowan, Grimsley, Dudley, Reynolds, Parkland and Mt. Tabor. She had a two-homer day against Tabor. Evans and Emily King swatted back-to-back homers in one game, and Evans roped two triples against Parkland.
“One person I don’t have to worry about getting up to play is Debbie,” Steele said. “I know I can always count on her.”
In the first round of the playoffs, Evans did all she could to prevent a 5-4 loss at West Mecklenburg (23-2). She singled once and doubled twice.
Evans was a no-brainer for CPC Player of the Year.
“Debbie is absolutely the best I’ve ever had,” Steele said. “The only thing I regret is that she played for me five years (three at North Davie and two at Davie) and we never got her that conference championship. I’ve coached some good ones, but Debbie’s the best. She’s got it all. She runs the bases well, she has a good arm and a good bat. She’s awesome.”
The 1990 all-conference team included senior catcher Jennifer Eaton, junior shortstop Stephanie Whitaker and senior first baseman Melissa Hendrix.
Track & Field
• Evans found time to dabble in track & field, and she was excellent in two events.
Unfortunately, the knee injury kept her out of the CPC championship meet as a sophomore in the spring of 1988.
“If she had performed, we probably could have gotten into the 70s,” coach Rex Allen said then. Davie scored 64 points for third place. “She would have placed in the discus and shot.”
• As a junior, Evans made all-conference by taking second in the discus (102-2). In the sectional meet at Grimsley, Evans captured first in the discus (102-6). She was third in the shot put (30-1). In the regional meet at Myers Park, she was third in the discus (109-10) and sixth in the shot put (32-10). The top four advanced to the state meet, which was held at N.C. State. Evans was fifth in the state in the discus (107-1).
• Evans’ work was nothing short of sterling as a senior. In the CPC championship at Dudley, she won the shot put (31-11) and discus (106-6). In the sectional meet at Grimsley, she was first in the discus (106-8.5), outdistancing the runner-up from Carver by 24 feet, and second in the shot put (31-4). In the Western Regional at Myers Park, she was fourth in the discus (106-9). In the state meet at N.C. State, she was sixth in the discus (106-6).
“Debbie’s not as large as some of the other girls in the conference,” coach Marty Hemric said then. “She just has natural, raw strength. She’s only out here 15 or 20 minutes a day. That’s really something considering the little time she puts in it.”
Few have approached what Evans achieved. She collected 11 letters; it would have been 12 without the knee injury that erased one volleyball season. She was all-conference twice in softball and track. She was all-conference in volleyball and basketball. She was player of the year in softball. At the end-of-year banquet in 1990, Evans was named the Jack Ward Female Athlete of the Year.
Oh, and she competed in racquetball, winning summer tournaments, and in fast-pitch softball leagues in Winston-Salem.
She took her phenomenal all-around skills to Western Carolina, where she threw the shot put, discus and javelin for four years (WCU did not offer women’s softball back then). The Catamounts started a golf program during Evans’ senior year, so she picked up some clubs and became an immediate starter. After serving as a student coach and graduate-assistant coach in women’s basketball at WCU, she was a coach at Newberry College (S.C.) for three years. She was an assistant in basketball and softball and the head coach in cross country and golf.
She was hired at Davie in 2000 and she’s been there ever since. These days she coaches JV girls basketball and softball as an assistant.