The Unicoi County Middle School junior varsity volleyball team includes, pictured from left, back row, Bella Davis, Olivia Bailey, Makenzie Casey and Hannah Clark; front row, Samantha Walden, Katie Hensley, Sydney Compton and Amanda Miller. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

The Unicoi County Middle School varsity volleyball team includes, pictured from left, back row, Emalle Benard, Alex Withers, Savannah Sparks, Bayleigh Hyder, Hannah Shelton and Makenzie Casey; front row, Olivia Bailey, Rachel Hatcher, Raquel Torres, Bella Davis and Rocio Reynoso. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Keeli Parkey)

By Keeli Parkey

Hard work and dedication have led to a winning record for the Unicoi County Middle School volleyball team this season.

According to their head coach, Stephanie Howard, the Jr. Lady Devils held tryouts this summer, then began officially preparing for competition.

“The girls dedicated their last couple of weeks of vacation to volleyball,” Howard said.

When the season started, the Jr. Lady Devils found themselves competing against new opponents.

“The girls are debuting in a new conference, so we always want to make an impact immediately and make a name for ourselves,” Howard said. “We want to be known as a team of fighters who never give up.”

The Jr. Lady Devils have posted an overall record of 9-7, which includes a few key victories.

“On Aug. 24, the team really came together to sweep both games of a conference meet,” Howard said. “Led by a big night from Bayleigh Hyder and Olivia Bailey, the team defeated Jonesborough and Ridgeview by impressive margins. The girls also finished a middle school tournament at UCHS as the runner-up. This was due, in part, by great play from Hannah Shelton, Rachel Hatcher and Rocio Reynoso.”

Several players have made important contributions to the team this season, according to their head coach.

“Hannah Shelton is an all-around player who is a natural leader,” Howard said. “Savannah Sparks and Alex Withers have made an impact on the net with some blocks, as well as consistent serving. Emalee Benard has a rocket serve that we have been very pleased with.  Raquel Torres has been huge for us on the back row, as the team’s libero.”

The Jr. Lady Devils have non-conference matches scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 7, Monday, Sept. 11, and Tuesday, Sept. 12, before they enter postseason play on Saturday, Sept. 16, in Blountville.