KINGSPORT — The Big 7 Volleyball Jamboree went through the normal paces Thursday evening in the Buck Van Huss Dome at Dobyns-Bennett
Out of the preseason matches there were two points of consenus among the coaches.
First, there isn’t a team that could be defined as the “favorite” to claim the district title.
Secondly, Sullivan South may have dropped down in classification but the competition is still going to be stiff. In other words, be prepared to bring your best every game.
Dobyns-Bennett coach Wendy Baker hasn’t gone to carrying a rabbit’s foot but luck along the way would be it could be a possibility.
The Lady Indians graduated five from last year’s squad.
“We’ve yet to have a practice with a full roster due to some type of injury,” said Baker.
Top returners are setter Kerry Jones (sr.), middle blocker Taylor Henry (jr.), and defensive specialist Lexy Hartsock (sr.).
Hartsock has been named defensive player of the year the past two seasons while injuries have kept Jones and Henry sidelined.
“My goal is to get the girls to learn to play without them and then adjust as they return,” added Baker. “We just need to get healthy and worry about October and not August.”
Reclassification has sent South to a lower division and the conference loses a team that has spent a lot of time at the top of the standings.
“I can’t say that I’m glad to see them go because when you play top competition like them you only get better. In fact our girls asked to keep them on the schedule this season,” Baker said.
Sullivan Central is taking a “wait and see” attitude to the upcoming season.
The team lost four from last year’s squad with eight experienced returnees.
“I know that we can do really well, but early on we are battling some inconsistency,” said head coach Tracy Graybeal. “I’m hoping that as we gel and focus on our ball control we can do really well.
Top returners for the Lady Cougars include middle blocker Ashley Reynolds (sr.), outside hitter Annabel Bouton (sr.) to go along with defensive specialists Rachel Harr (sr.) and Taylor Hicks (sr.).
Graybeal, a former South graduate, almost echoed the feeling of other coaches in the division about the Rebels departure.
“With South the competition was always top notch but I don’t see it falling off with their departure. This season as always you are going to have to bring your A-game every night,” said Graybeal.
Volunteer will depend on quickness more than height as it works through the conference schedule.
“We don’t have the height that we had last year but are quicker,” said head coach Tina Evans. “
The Lady Falcons return a nucleus of four seniors: middle hitter Emily Armstrong, outside hitters Lindsey Vance, Alex Williams and defensive specialist Kellie Kirk.
Volunteer has high hopes for sophomore Morgan Marshall, described as “able to hit from anywhere.”
Science Hill, Tennessee High, Daniel Boone, and David Crockett all suffered heavy losses and look to go through growing pains.
The Vikings lost six starters while the Hilltoppers gave up seven.
Former Gate City standout Chelsea Spivey is in her first year leading the Lady Trailblazers. She comes fresh out Milligan into her first coaching tenure.
“This year will be a learning curve for me and the players,” said Spivey. “Right now we are playing scared and I don’t know that maybe they aren’t trying to get used to me. But I do see improvement everyday.”
David Crockett coach Sarah Broyles lost six from last year but exhibits little fear in her prediction of the season.
“I have high expectations and look to turn the conference upside down. There is talent on every team and we know that no game will be a given,” said Broyles.