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A men’s volleyball program is quickly taking shape at Milligan College.
Six players are already on campus and another six are being sought before the team begins its inaugural season in January. Women’s coach Doneva Bays is overseeing the building process and will soon be joined by a new associate head coach, Joel Salva.
“We hope to have eight to 12 games the first year,” Bays said Thursday. “We’ll be competing in the NCVB (National Club Volleyball Federation) and not the NAIA, so we’re free to do our own thing at the start. We’ll play the UT club team, King College, Lees-McRae and some other schools.
“We’ve already brought in six guys for this first class. Some have experience at the high school or club level, and some have just played volleyball recreationally. They’ve grown up playing other sports.”
Three of the players are local: Bryce Buckland (Sullivan Central), Hobie Vannoy (Sullivan East) and Nathan Gibson, a 6-foot-6 freshman who was home-schooled in Kingsport.
There were tryouts scheduled for potential walk-ons Thursday night.
“We’d like to have 12 guys so we can go six on six in practice,” said Bays. “The men have been practicing on Sunday nights and doing rec leagues at Johnson City Wellness on Thursday nights to get some competitiveness. Gym time is hard to come by, and that’s an opportunity to get more touches.”
Eventually the men will practice some against the Milligan women’s team, but Bays isn’t rushing that.
“The thing with the men, they’re athleticism is very good,” she said. “They already know how to jump high and be quick. They just need more work with the skill part. They’re eager and will eventually be able to work out with the women.”
Those women are already 12 games into their fall schedule, and Bays, in her sixth season at Milligan, admits “this semester has been a little overwhelming.”
The young Buffs have been on a rollercoaster ride, losing their first seven matches, then winning four in a row before falling in the last match of a tournament in Georgia last weekend. They host Reinhardt in their Appalachian Athletic Conference opener tonight at Lacy Fieldhouse, where they are 0-4 so far this season.
“It’s kind of been what I expected,” said Bays. “We have a young team, with two seniors and one junior returning. It’s mostly freshman-sophomore loaded, which means the future looks bright, but we’re going through some growing pains right now.”
One of those seniors, middle hitter Kylie Whaley of Maryville, has been standing tall. She was named the AAC hitter of the week on Monday.
“She’s a phenomenal leader, and her numbers speak volumes about her work ethic and the time she put in in the offseason,” said Bays.
The coach also likes what she’s seen, if not heard, from sophomore setter Jessica Davenport early in the season.
“She’s a great athlete who leads by example, but not as vocal as she needs to be,” said Bays.
Wednesday night wasn’t a productive night for Milligan soccer. The men’s and women’s teams each lost at Montreat by 2-0 scores.
Goals have been hard to come by for both so far this season. The Buffs (1-4) have scored five in five matches, including three against Virginia Intermont in their lone victory, while the Lady Buffs (2-2-1) have seven in five. Five of those goals came against VI.
The Buffs don’t play again until Tuesday, when they match up with St. Andrews in Laurinburg, N.C. The Lady Buffs head to Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville on Saturday.
The men’s tennis team opened its fall schedule Tuesday with a 6-3 victory over UVA-Wise.
The Buffs swept the doubles and then got singles victories from Fernando Gonzalez, Caleb Friddell and Alex Delosier.
On the women’s side, Milligan also defeated Wise by a 6-3 score, with Rachel Hodas, Sarah Rainwater and Heather Espeland winning in singles.
Both Milligan teams play again today at Mars Hill.