Two things were apparent after Sullivan South’s 3-1 volleyball win over Science Hill on Tuesday night at the Topper Palace.
First, the Lady Rebels (3-0) certainly look the part of Big Eight Conference favorite, especially when you combine Tuesday’s performance with earlier wins over Daniel Boone and David Crockett.
Second, the Lady ’Toppers (1-2, 5-4) are a team with a lot of potential. With a ton of raw talent, it would appear no one will jump at the chance of playing Science Hill later in the season.
“South has really good volleyball players right now, and we’re just athletes,” said Louise Stallworth in her second stint as Lady ’Toppers head coach. “We’ve got about four basketball players learning to play volleyball and they’ll get there. They just need to be polished. The only thing I have to do is be patient and understand it’s going to take some time to get the experience.”
Playing with a lot of emotion, Science Hill stayed ahead throughout the first game, which it won 25-17. The Lady ’Toppers took quick leads in all three of the remaining games only to see South come back each time. The Lady Rebels won the deciding games 25-16, 25-14 and 25-18.
“Any time you go to any gym in this conference, it’s going to be a hard game,” South head coach Wendy Ratliff said. “We played nervous at first, but we pulled out of it and I’m so proud of them.”
Rylee Milhorn was a wrecking crew at times for the Lady Rebels. The talented sophomore torched the Lady ’Toppers with 15 kills, as her leaping ability and wide array of shots impressed the Science Hill coach.
“We couldn’t stop her,” Stallworth said. “I tried to get somebody in there bigger to help us with the block. She’s just tough. She’s got a really quick arm swing. She knows where to hit, when to hit hard and when to lay off. She’s just a great all-around player.”
Heather Harvey added numbers of five kills and 22 assists, while other leaders for South were Tristen Pennington with seven kills and 12 digs, and Jenna Conkin with seven kills.
Hannah Johnson and Sarah Strong also combined to rack up 33 service points.
On the Science Hill side, Stallworth talked about Anjali Reddy, Renzey Rice and Maggie Henderson being the only players back with significant experience.
All played key roles for the Lady ’Toppers as Reddy had a team-best seven kills, while Rice’s all-around numbers included six kills, five digs, 13 assists and four aces which led to a team-best 16 service points.
Brittany Bible added 10 digs and 10 assists, while promising sophomore Gabby Lyon posted six kills and four blocks.
Some of the others who registered kills included Jalessa Kennedy and Jessica Norris, while Amy McKinney produced some hard-to-return serves.
It is a talented team overall with Hannah Williams, Jackie Murphy, Danielle Turner, Natalie Murray and Caprisha Webster giving Science Hill plenty of athleticism.
“We’re working towards being a better team towards the end of the season,” Stallworth said. “We have three players with a lot of experience, while some of them have no experience. We’re not playing together as a team yet. It’s more individual effort, but that’s because of the experience over here and the non-experience over here.”
Even though her team lost, Stallworth was able to take away some positives from the contest.
“I thought it was the best match we played all year,” she said. “Yes, we had several letdowns, but overall I was very happy with the improvements that I saw.”
The conference fight is now in full swing as Thursday games feature Science Hill at Dobyns-Bennett and the Lady Rebels hosting Tennessee High.