By Keeli Parkey
Things seem to have started to come together for the Unicoi County High School volleyball team.
“Overall, I am very pleased with how we are playing right now,” Lady Devil head coach LeAnn Lane said on Thursday, Sept. 15. “We’ve had two close conference games this week where we have been on the edge of winning the games. I’m hoping that this is the start of a ‘peaking at the right time’ for us. Our team is finally starting to click – defense and offense are coming together and many girls are coming off the bench to contribute. We play this weekend at Science Hill in a varsity tournament. I hope that we can continue to come together and play as a team and work out the kinks so we can peak at district tournament time.”
The Lady Devils opened play last week with a Three Rivers Conference match against Sullivan East in the Devils’ Den on Tuesday, Sept. 13.
The freshmen Lady Devils suffered their first conference loss of the season against the Lady Patriots, Lane said. UCHS fell in two games (21-25, 20-25).
Ashton Vance and Kaitlin Bailey led the team with 4 and 3 blocks, respectively. Bailey also had four kills.
“We beat East in three games at their place so I knew this game would be tough,” Lane said. “Our girls didn’t let down but just couldn’t pull out the win in the end.”
The junior varsity squad got the only win for the Lady Devils against East on Sept. 13, winning in three games (25-17, 21-25, 15-4).
“The JV played great against East,” Lane said. “Our back row, Emily Lamie, Emma Kelly and Taylor Sailors played outstanding. Emily had her best defensive game thus far and led us with 14 digs. Emma and Taylor pitched in 8.”
Brooklynn Jones led the junior varsity squad with 5 kills and 4 aces. Bailey had 5 blocks. Hall and Sarah Grace Larkey dished out 10 assists each.
The Lady Patriots defeated the Lady Devils in three games (18-25, 27-29, 17-25) in varsity action.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how we played as a team tonight,” Lane said. “I told my team that coming together and playing as a team means a lot more in the grand scheme of things. It’s unfortunate that our score couldn’t justify our hard work.
“Freshman Kaitlin Bailey, who was moved up to varsity last week, played outstanding tonight. In all three matches, she had 12 total blocks as well as 12 kills.”
Keelie Hall was one kill away from another double-double with 9 kills and 14 digs.
Also against East in the varsity match, Chloe Powers had 12 digs and Stephanie Wisse had 6 kills. Bailey came off the bench to contribute 4 kills, 4 blocks and 6 digs. Katelynn Bennett had 4 kills and 5 blocks. Rachel Lynch has 17 assists and 3 kills. Blake Hall also chipped in 11 assists.
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The Lady Devils faced Sullivan North in their second conference match of the week on Thursday, Sept. 15.
The freshmen team moved to 8-1 in conference play with a victory in two games (25-6, 25-8).
Lane said Hallee Casey and Karrie Clayton led all servers with 9 and 8 service points, respectively. Gabby Davis, Taylor Sailors and Ashton Vance had 5 service points each.
The net was controlled by Vance and Bailey, who contributed 8 and 6 kills, respectively. Blake Hall had 11 assists and Casey had 10.
The junior varsity team also defeated Sullivan North last week in two games (25-11, 25-18).
Larkey opened the first game with a 9-0 to lead the team, Lane said. Larkey also had 14 assists and 4 kills. Jones had 7 kills; Kelly had 5 kills; and Blake Hall had 10 assists.
The Lady Devil varsity team couldn’t complete the sweep of Sullivan North, falling in four games to the Lady Golden Raiders (17-25, 25-9, 21-25, 23-25).
“Rachel Lynch played an outstanding game with 12 service points, 2 aces, 18 assists and 7 digs,” Lane said. “Keelie Hall had another double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs. Katelyn Bennett was unstoppable at the net with a game high 13 kills and 6 blocks. Savannah Lafever dominated defensively with a game high 19 digs.”
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The Lady Devil varsity squad wrapped up last week going 2-2 at Science Hill in the Mountain Empire Tournament.
“After losing to North on Thursday night, we faced them again Saturday morning at 9 a.m.,” Lane said. “It was a tough game but we won in three.”
The game scores were: 27-26, 22-25 and 15-13. A 27-point cap was in place for pool play and matches were decided in the best of three games.
“The second pool play game was against Volunteer,” Lane said. “It took us the first game to gain confidence and catch up with their game speed, but we won again in three.”
Scores for this victory were: 11-25, 25-17 and 15-9.
Later in the day, the Lady Devils fell to Jefferson County (25-27, 19-25) and Greeneville (8-25, 22-25).
“We went 2-2 this weekend,” Lane said. “Overall, it was a good moral booster for the team to beat North and Volunteer.”
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The Lady Devils carried their momentum into Monday, Sept. 19, when they traveled to Chuckey-Doak to face the Lady Black Knights.
The varsity squad avenged a loss from earlier in the season with a victory in three games (25-21, 29-27, 25-23) over Chuckey-Doak.
“The last time we played Chuckey-Doak was at the beginning of the season – the third game in – and lost in four games,” Lane said. “We are showing improvement.”
Jones had 10 kills and 4 blocks; Blake Hall had 14 assists; Lynch had 11 assists; Bennett had 6 kills; and Keelie Hall had 5 kills and 7 digs.
The junior varsity team also defeated the Lady Black Knights, winning in two games (25-9, 25-13). In this match, Blake Hall had 4 aces and 12 assists; Kelly had 4 aces and 9 digs; Powers had 7 kills; and Bailey had 5 kills.
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The Lady Devils traveled to Elizabethton on Tuesday, Sept. 20, after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They are scheduled to host Johnson County on Thursday, Sept. 22, with the freshmen team opening play at 4:30 p.m.
They are also scheduled to travel to David Crockett on Monday, Sept. 26, and to Sullivan South on Tuesday, Sept. 27.