Last season, Tennessee High advanced to the state tournament, while Volunteer made a run to the sectionals. This season could be more competitive with the expected bounce back of D-B and Science Hill.
Chloe Harless, Staley Humphries, Carly Shell and Zoie Larkins shore up the back row for the Lady Indians, as coach Megan Devine said not much gets by them when all four are on the court.
Humphries is a rotational player, just as effective on the front row, where she and Caroline Cable are the outside hitters. Rylee Waye is a returning setter, while Abby Fannon is a senior who just joined the team this season.
Devine wants her setters to speed up the offense, while the combination of Hannah Watson and Courtney Whitson give the Lady Indians a force in the middle.
“I don’t think anyone could define ‘brick house’ any better than them,” Devine said. “They’re kind of like the dynamic duo.”
Devine describes the biggest strength as the back row. But hopes are high, with the coach seeing consistent play from the Lady Indians as the key to a successful season.
With the season starting next week, coach Laura Cook said the Lady ’Toppers are looking for leadership across the board.
Junior Kenzie Clark is the libero, while other defensive specialists includes senior Meghan Carroll and sophomore Jesse Franks.
In a 6-2 set, sophomore Alyssa Neal and Chloe Smith are setters.
Middle blockers Ella Gay and Mckenna Crosby have been challenged to be scorers, while right-side hitter Riley Layton has both the jumping ability and hang time. Outside hitters also include Jesse Franks, Meghan Carroll and Claire Thomas.
Overall, Cook praised her team for getting in the weight room and getting stronger, while she sees the league as more competitive than ever.
“I think every night will be a dogfight with a lot of four and five-game matches,” she said. “If I base it on team camp, everybody is going to play hard.”
Five seniors and six juniors comprise the roster, just one year after the Vikings made it to the state tournament. Outside hitter Kloey Tester leads the way, while Laken Robinette and Maggie Hicks will also be outside hitters. Tester and Robinette led the team in kills at the state tournament.
New middle hitters are Sahra Lamber and Kenzie Nickels, with coach Mary Johnson calling it a main focus for the Lady Vikings to up their middle play this season.
Macy Hurley will be the libero, while Evie Cozart will be a defensive specialist.
“I’m extremely confident in our back row,” Johnson said, “to the point where I say we’re as strong as last year.”
Playing in a 6-2 set, Riley McCracken and Aubrey McCray will be the setters.
The Lady Falcons must replace last season’s conference player of the year, Alyssa Hatley, who led Volunteer to the school’s first sectional appearance in 17 years before signing with East Tennessee State.
However, there is 6-foot-2 Emily Hatley looking to continue the family tradition listed as a middle blocker, alongside Emma Bice, who led the team in blocks last season.
“Emily is really putting the ball down and I’m excited about what she’s able to do,” Volunteer coach Josh Wenger said. “We’re filling a void, but we’re going to be more balanced and that will be healthy for us.”
Outside hitters include Gracie Smith and Jersey Wines.
Sydney Allen is someone Wenger describes as a good spot server. She is listed as a setter along with Sydney Allen.
Volunteer has the luxury of senior Aubrey Cobb, a three-year starter, at libero.
Coach Marquis Clark jokes that he will put up his Lady Pioneers up against any team on the softball field.
With crossover athletes like softball player Kara Weems as an outside hitter and basketball player Emma Gouge as middle blocker, Crockett has plenty of athleticism.
“If I can get athletes in there who are fast and bouncing, they can jump around in there, get touches and keep things balanced.”
Breanna O’Shields and Gabby Rambo are a couple of other front row standouts for Crockett, while setters include Joanna Smith and Jessica Foister.
Maddie Pleasant is at libero and Morgan Barkley is expected to be a force on the back row.
It is a truly a rebuilding year for the Lady ’Blazers, who lost nine seniors including their whole defense.
At Tuesday’s media day, coach Chelsea Spivey was yet to name a libero. Laken Jones, Riley Brinn, Claire Nave and Abbi Herbert will need to take up the slack defensively.
It does look better on the offensive end where Boone’s four returning players are outside hitter Jaycie Jenkins, middle hitters Greyson Stevens and Dannah Persinger, and setter McKenna Dietz. Junior Mackenzie Sweigert is also listed at outside hitter.