By Keeli Parkey
The 2018 season has come to an end for the Unicoi County High School volleyball team.
The Lady Devils (4-8, 7-16) were eliminated from postseason play by a loss to Sullivan East in the opening round of the District 1-AA tournament played at East on Monday, Oct. 1. The Lady Patriots bested UCHS in three sets (18-25, 21-25, 13-25).
UCHS finished in fifth place in the conference this season, which set up the opening round game against East, the fourth seed. The conference standings at the end of the regular season were as follows: 1 – Sullivan South; 2 – Elizabethton; 3 – Sullivan Central; 4 – Sullivan East; 5 – Unicoi County; 6 – Johnson County; 7 – Chuckey-Doak.
Freshman Shelby Miller had 9 kills and 4 blocks in the loss to East in the district. Senior Sarah Grace Larkey had 6 kills and 9 assists. Seniors Chloe Powers and Sydney Rogers each had 7 digs. Junior Blake Hall had 9 assists.
“Obviously, this isn’t how I wanted our season to end,” Lady Devil head coach LeAnn Lane said. “Going into this season, our team had high hopes and expectations; being that we had six seniors, Sarah Grace Larkey committed to playing at the next level and two returning junior starters and with the help of freshman Shelby Miller in the lineup.
“it should have been a top-three finish season. We were definitely capable of that,” Lane continued. However, we didn’t have many games where all the girls were connecting. Volleyball is one of those sports that everyone on the floor has to play their part and be ‘on.’ We would have games where two or three girls were on and it would help us compete, but not deal the win.”
Looking ahead to the 2019 season, Lane is expecting younger players to have to step in.
“Next season will be a rebuilding year with the 13 freshmen from this year, finding some of them to step into varsity roles as sophomores,” she said. “We have just a couple of sophomores that will also have to step up as juniors to compete at the varsity level for the first time.”
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During the last week of the regular season, the Lady Devils earned a victory over Cherokee, non-conference opponent, but fell to conference foes East and Sullivan Central.
UCHS went on the road and defeated Cherokee in four sets (17-25, 25-20, 27-25, 25-11) on Sept. 24.
Miller had 11 kills and 2 blocks in the win. Larkey and Senior Emma Kelly had 7 kills each. Hall had 20 assists, 11 digs, 3 kills and 3 aces. Powers had 22 digs. Hallee Casey, who had recently returned to the lineup after an injury, had 11 assists and 8 digs.
On Sept. 25, the Lady Devils hosted Sullivan East, but fell in four sets (18-25, 11-25, 25-21, 20-25). Prior to the match, the program honored its senior members – Karrie Clayton, Kelly, Larkey, Powers and Rogers.
Hall had 22 assists and 15 digs in the loss. Powers had 27 digs. Larkey had 11 kills. Miller had 10 kills and 5 blocks. Rogers had 4 aces and 12 digs.
On Sept. 27, the Lady Devils lost on the road to Sullivan Central in three sets (19-25, 14-25, 15-25). Junior Ashtan Vance had 23 digs in the match. Powers and Rogers contributed 11 digs each. Miller had 7 kills.
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The Lady Devil junior varsity squad wrapped up the 2018 season in the JV tournament on Saturday, Sept. 29. The team lost to Sullivan South in two sets (14-25, 17-25).
Freshman Raquel Torres had 8 digs. Freshman Caitlin Wilson had 2 kills and 1 block. Freshman Makenzie Casey had 2 kills. Freshman Hannah Shelton had 5 digs.
“I’m proud of our younger kids,” Lane said. “The JV is mostly made up of freshman and they’ve competed and got better all season by playing teams better than them. We split during the season with Elizabethton, who has juniors on their JV. I look to this group to help us in the coming seasons.”