KINGSPORT — Dobyns-Bennett’s volleyball team went 50-8 last year — winning conference, district, region and sectional honors on its way to the TSSAA state tournament’s Final Four.
Unbeaten in conference play a year ago, D-B has been picked to repeat as Big 8 Conference champion.
Forgive the Lady Indians if they are thinking Murfreesboro again. Their squad returns almost intact and — by all indications — is better than in 2008.
“We’ve got high hopes,’’ said coach Kathi Shaffer after Thursday night’s 25-9, 25-11, 25-15 victory over Volunteer. “People know we’ve got the big hitters, but our defense is strong as well.
“We have such great kids. They work hard in class and follow all the rules. Good guys should finish first.’’
D-B was led by Jamie Rutledge, Katie Jones, Megan Devine, Meredith Hardy and Lori Peterson.
Rutledge recorded 28 assists. Jones had 17 service points and 10 digs. Devine was credited with 20 digs, seven kills and one block. Hardy collected 13 kills and Peterson came up with 19 digs.
“It was a solid game,’’ Hardy said. “Our defense was good.’’
Rutledge explained that D-B will have to earn everything it gets: “We’re going to have to try to make teams play to our level instead of dropping down to theirs.”
Devine said just getting to the state tourney won’t be enough. “Winning the championship is our goal. We’ll take it point by point, game by game.’’
Shaffer, who has taken D-B (2-0, 2-0) to the Final Four the last two years, insists there’s been marked improvement since last season.
“Our defense has improved. The passing has been fantastic and that’s what makes your offense,’’ she said. “We don’t have to depend on Megan and Meredith as much. Jamie is one of the best setters around. Some of the younger girls have stepped up.’’
Volunteer coach Tina Evans is one who believes the Lady Indians are No. 1 locally. “D-B was good last year and has another outstanding team,’’ she said. “(The Lady Indians) work well together. They’ve got the big guns back. They’re very polished. When they make a mistake, they get over it.’’
Ashley Hooven had three kills and four assists for Volunteer (1-1, 0-1). Jodi Shipley was consistent with two kills, three assists and four service points.
“We are better than we showed tonight,’’ Evans said. “We’ve had a rough week.’’