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Volleyball season ends with loss in district

The 2015 season for the Unicoi County High School volleyball team concluded last week in District 1-AA tournament action at Sullivan North.
The Lady Devils (7-29) fought with the Lady Golden Raiders through four sets, but were unable to pull away with a first round victory, falling 25-19, 25-15, 23-25 and 25-17 on Monday, Oct. 5.
“I thought we played one of our best matches overall,” Lady Blue Devil head coach Frank Forsythe said following the loss. “The score doesn’t indicate how hard the girls played.”
Senior Ashlie Padgett, Brooklyn Jones and Katelynn Bennett paced the offensive attack with eight kills each against Sullivan North. During the successful third set, the Lady Blue Devils were able to net 12 kills to take the two-point win.
Laura Rogers joined her senior teammate with a distribution display, leading the way with a team-high 29 assist performance. Savannah Lafever tacked on 15 digs on defense, while Padgett hit double figures with 10, in one of her best games of the season, according to Forsythe.
The loss concluded the season for UCHS during a season when a handful of underclassmen being thrown into the fire of varsity action, Forsythe said.
“I think it was a great experience for the younger girls,” he added. “Typically with programs I’ve been with before at the high school and college levels, the classes were even … four seniors, about five juniors, then underclassmen … but we only had two seniors this year.
“I thought Laura and Ashlie were great leaders, but it can be tough on the younger girls to step up into those leadership roles,” he continued. “At the start, you could see it was intimidating for the girls, but as the season went on, they continued to get better and I thought it was very beneficial.”
Adjustments were felt when junior Keelie Hall was lost midway through the season due to injury, Forsythe said. At the time, the Lady Devil was the leading scorer on the team with 156 kills. The head coach said that the stepped up play from Jones and Bennett helped the team get into positions to score a handful of wins this season, which included a season sweep over Johnson County. The Lady Devils’ wins over the Lady Longhorns snapped a year-long drought in the win column inside the Three Rivers Conference.
Jones finished as the team leader in kills with 163, while Bennett wrapped up the season at 143.
With the 2015 season behind the squad, the players sights are set on the preparing for the next season, Forsythe said. The head coach added that players off this year’s team are expected to join up with club teams during the offseason to continue their progress on the hardwood.
“I think the future’s very bright for volleyball,” Forsythe said. “The underclassmen will only get better and those experiences this season will only help. We played two freshmen on the varsity level and Sarah Grace (Larkey) and Brooklyn stepped up and we had to bring up another player when Keelie went down.”
Members of the Lady Blue Devils’ varsity team this season included Padgett, Rogers, Hall, Lafever, Jones, Larkey, Bennett, Kenedy King, Rachel Lynch, Emma Kelly and Jessica McConnell.
Hall was named to the TRC all-conference team for UCHS.
Rogers, Padgett, Bennett, Lafever and Jones received honorable mention.