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King: Ladies will have new look this season

After graduating five seniors off last year’s team, the Unicoi County High School Lady Blue Devils are currently searching for a new look for the 2015-2016 season under the direction of head coach Kerri King.
“The players that graduated last year were forced into varsity playing time early,” King said. “We had a specialist with rebounding, a 3-point shooter … It is kind of refreshing to have a whole new look and to try new stuff. We’re not tall, but we’re all about the same length, so it is fun to see what different looks we can have this season. I have an idea of what our strong suits are, but we’re still searching for our identity.”
This season will see new looks across the court in the Devils’ Den, as well as across the region.
UCHS finished last season with a 17-15 record and fell in the quarterfinals of the Region 1-AA on the road against Chuckey-Doak High School.
The returning players used the early tournament exit as momentum as they worked this summer, according to the head coach.
“We did a good job this summer,” King said. “I don’t know how that will shake out … We had a couple of injuries since then and we’re having to change things around and give a newer look from this summer.”
One of the injuries happened to sophomore Halie Padgett. The sophomore was pegged to be a threat in the post to fill the void led by the school’s leading rebounder Destinie Hayes.
However, the team returns players in important leadership roles, King added. Three-year starter Hannah Rice returns, as does Ashlie Padgett. Rice and Padgett are the team’s only seniors.
“Hannah has adapted to a whole new variety of players and has done well with that,” King said. “Ashlie has played with the younger girls at the junior varsity level before and has that experience with them.”
Padgett, along with Neelee Griffith and Ashley Edwards also showed their worth during the summer, King said.
“They really adjusted to varsity play and have been leaders for the girls,” she added.
Other new faces to the varsity throughout the summer included Rachel Lynch, Kenedy King, Chloe Powers and Kaylee Hendrickson.
“They all did a good job this summer with the limited experience and prep time,” King said. “We had five practices and they did well to adjust on the fly and step up for us.”
It looks to be a crowded race for top of the Three Rivers Conference, the head coach said, with Elizabethton and Sullivan East returning a majority of players off last year’s district tournament’s first- and second-place teams.
“This is the year where teams have a lot of their starters back for senior seasons,” she said. “Happy Valley will be tough. We were senior heavy last year, so it’ll be an adjustment for us.”
The coaching staff for the Lady Blue Devils this season includes assistant coach Megan Davis and the addition of former Lady Devil, Rilie King.
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The ladies open the regular season in Hall of Champions play on Friday, Nov. 20, with an in-school game on the road against the Lady Falcons of Volunteer High School at 2:30 p.m.
They will play their home opener on Saturday, Nov. 21, against Madison County, N.C. Junior varsity is set for 5 p.m. with varsity to follow at 6:30 p.m.
UCHS opens conference play on Dec. 4 against Sullivan South. Underclassmen open the night at 3:30 p.m.; the varsity will play at 6:30 p.m.