Dobyns-Bennett is again the favorite heading into the Big Seven Conference volleyball season, while the rest of the league is wide-open according to the coaches.
The Lady Indians have four seniors returning including Taylor Henry and Rebecca Morehouse in the middle. With outside hitter Makenzee Frohlich and setter Sasha Morrisette, D-B features plenty of experience.
In addition, Dobyns-Bennett has a talented junior class led by Alison Kilgore and Kaitlyn Williams.
The Lady ’Toppers lose a lot of athletes from a year ago like Gabby Lyon and Emma Martindale, but they return talented senior Keisha Gregory as the middle blocker.
There is also a change at the helm. Christina Maiden takes over as head coach after serving as an assistant to Louise Stallworth during two separate stints.
On the court, Megan Thomas will be a senior libero. Fellow senior Kira Campbell and junior Mandy Stallard will also spend time in that position. Other seniors include Allie Foster up front, along with Mallory Murray, Martha Campbell and Keema Smith.
Juniors Jaelyn Olsen, Ali Jenkins and Olivia Jenkins are expected to contribute heavily, as is junior setter Abby Higgins who returns from a knee injury.
The injury bug is a concern for Maiden, who believes the Lady ’Toppers can have a good season once they get over some early challenges.
“We are looking strong this year if we can remain healthy,” Maiden said. “We’ve had some injuries starting out the season, but are working hard to get everyone back. We have a large junior and senior class with lots of experience and leadership. I’m looking for some big things from this squad all the way around.”
The Lady Pioneers, like the Lady ’Toppers, have dealt with some early injuries. Still, that doesn’t temper the expectations of third-year coach Sarah Webb, who commented Crockett has a lot of individual talent.
Jennifer Brewer is a senior setter who will run the offense, while another senior Sam Fox brings experience as an outside hitter.
Webb described Paige Stelter in the middle as a tall girl, who has great vision and blocking skills. Adrianna Stephens is a libero with good passing skills, and outside hitter Anna Waddle was praised for her improvement.
Senior Kerstynn Whitaker could play a big role as should versatile junior Brooke Ervin.
“She’s a good athlete who can play setter or middle (hitter) depending on who we we’re playing and what strengths we have,” the coach said about Ervin. “She’s just a junior, but she’s a powerhouse. She just has to learn how to control her power.”
A bigger challenge for the team as a whole is controlling the powerhouses in the conference. Webb generally hears a better you than me comment when she talks about facing teams like D-B, Science Hill and Sullivan Central.
“I tell people all the time that our conference is the toughest in Tennessee,” Webb said. “When we go play team camps and they find out who is in our conference, they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, how do you deal with that?’ We tell our girls that those girls are the same as them. If you practice and get better as an individual, we’re going to get better as a team. We can compete and we hope to compete.”
It’s a rebuilding year for second-year coach Chelsea Spivey after Boone graduated five seniors from last year’s team. Still, there are a half-dozen returners whom Spivey mentioned as taking their games to the next level.
“Our returning players like Montana Riddle, Caroline Little, Makayla Ledford, Kendra Harville, Konner Smith, Lindsay Laughrun, they’ve really stepped up,” Spivey said. “Then we have Mackenzie Carrier coming in from Providence, and a couple of talented freshmen with Sydney Pearce and Kaylee Rabun.”
Spivey, who is a product of the powerhouse Gate City,Virginia, program, believes Riddle can be a force in the middle. She likes the sophomore’s intensity with how she approaches every point as a state championship point.
Overall, she sees improvement from a year ago, but said the Lady ’Blazers still have a ways to go.
“I’m satisfied with the improvement we’re seeing, but I’m not satisfied with where we are,” she said. “With what we’re learning each day, I can see us moving up in the conference. Hopefully this year, we can see our improvement on the court and in our records.”comments powered by Disqus