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‘Team effort’ leads to volleyball victories

By Keeli Parkey

The Unicoi County High School volleyball team (4-5, 2-3) earned two “beneficial” victories last week, according to their head coach.

The Lady Devils opened play at the Devils’ Den against Cherokee on Monday, Aug. 28, and won a close non-conference match in four sets (25-22, 25-18, 21-25, 25-21).

Leading the way against Cherokee was junior Sarah Grace Larkey who had 14 kills, 5 aces, 2 blocks and 4 assists for what head coach LeAnn Lane described as an all around productive match.”

Other notable stats against Cherokee included: 21 assists by Blake Hall; 6 kills and 2 aces by Emma Kelly; 3 kills and 7 digs by Emily Lamie; 5 kills by Katelyn Bennett; 3 kills and 2 blocks by Ashtan Vance; 5 digs and 6 assists by Rachel Lynch; 6 digs and 4 aces by Chloe Powers; and 6 digs by Sydney Rogers in her return to the lineup.

The Lady Devil junior varsity squad also defeated Cherokee last week. The JV won in two sets (25-13, 25-13) thanks, in part, to 13 aces.

Notable stats for the team in the victory included: 13 assists and 2 aces by Hallee Casey; 4 aces and 2 kills by Gabby Davis; 4 kills and 4 digs by Kelly; and 4 kills and 2 aces by Vance.

The most important victory for the Lady Devil varsity squad came against a conference opponent on Tuesday, Aug. 29, in Erwin. They needed to go the distance to do it, but the team defeated Sullivan East in five games (20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 19-25, 15-9). The Lady Devils had 5 team blocks and 14 aces in the match.

Vance led the way for the Lady Devils with a game-high 9 kills.

Other stats included: 6 aces, 19 digs and 5 kills by Bennett; 3 aces, 5 kills, and 16 digs by Powers; 13 assists by Lynch; 14 assists and 7 digs by Hall; 8 kills and 8 digs by Lamie; 5 kills and 9 digs by Kelly; and 9 kills and 2 aces by Larkey.

“Both wins were beneficial for us on many levels and I’m very proud of the girls for rebounding from last week’s loss,” Lane said. “The stats show how well we are playing together as a team, where every girl is contributing. That’s what is making us competitive right now. We don’t just have one strong player to shut down. We are strong all the way around and when everyone is producing, we are highly competitive and a threat. It’s hard to single out one player that contributed the most to these wins, it’s an overall team effort.”

• • •

The Lady Devils’ only loss last week came to a team with a solid volleyball background. UCHS fell on the road to Sullivan South (23-25, 17-25, 11-25) on Thursday, Aug. 31.

“Going into the match, we knew what we were facing,” Lane said. “We were tired and were facing a competitive team with a reputation. The girls had positive attitudes and now understand their capabilities of being able to beat anyone in our conference, provided that everyone does their job. 

“The match was no doubt tough for us, we were tired from playing nine games already and when we are tired, either our passing or hitting becomes full of errors – it was our hitting this time. We had only 21 kills in 3 games. We gave up nine points in the second game to hitting errors. We can’t win with that many hitting errors.”

There was a bright spot for UCHS against South, according to Lane.

“Defensively, we played outstanding and combined for 70 digs,” she said. “Chloe Powers led our team defensively … The first game of the match showed we can definitely hang with them and it could have went either way. We just didn’t have enough fuel to win the battle.”

Larkey had 10 kills in the loss. Powers had 4, Bennett had 3 and Lamie and Kelly had 2 each. Powers had 30 digs to lead the defense. Bennett and Kelly had 9 digs each. Hall had 5 digs and 14 assists. Lamie contributed 3 digs.

• • •

“We are going to regroup over the weekend and prepare for next week against (Sullivan) Central and Johnson County,” Lane said.

The Lady Devils were scheduled to travel to Central on Tuesday, Sept. 5, for a conference match after The Erwin Record’s press deadline. They will travel to conference foe Johnson County on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The Lady Devils are scheduled to compete in the Border Bash Varsity Tournament being played in Erwin on Saturday, Sept. 9.