Lady Panthers continue to progress

Lenoir City High School’s Sydney Cook sets the ball during a match last season against Loudon High School.

The Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers got a first taste of live play Saturday during a preseason jamboree at Sequoyah High School.

First-year volleyball head coach Bryan Lynn admits his team had its share of struggles, but was pleased with a 5-1 outcome against McMinn Central, Meigs County and Sequoyah.

“Those jamborees are really just a good opportunity to see what things you need to work as you approach the rest of the season,” Lynn said. “One of the biggest things I saw is that we’re going to have to be a team that plays faster. We’ve got to play faster, we’ve got to play harder. It was good to play against somebody other than ourselves, but what we’ve been stressing in there is the competition that we face in district is a level above what we saw down there. I don’t know that they are really prepared for that.”

LCHS juniors Briana Hiers and Antonella Cerdan enjoyed the jamboree and said it was a good experience, but both agree with Lynn.

“I think the playday was good to get us ready for our district, but I think that we should pick it up a little bit more to play harder,” Hiers said. “The playday was just kind of a way to get ready for what’s coming.”

“I think we should work more together because sometimes we argue,” Cerdan added. “We have to be all together as a team, and we have to talk more.”

Since taking over the program in early June, Lynn is learning the ins and outs of the head coaching role.

“The biggest thing that I take away is that it’s different standing on the sideline, watching what people are doing, trying to track what people are doing like rotations,” he said. “Being sure people are in the right rotation as they’re rotating. Also, just keeping track when they need to sub and making sure they sub at the right time. ... Kristen (Lynn) can track in her head where we’re at in the rotation, who’s where and what’s going on. I struggle with that a little bit.”

Another obstacle Lynn is trying to overcome is learning how to amp up the intensity and bring out the best in players.

“I’ve got to figure out how to get a level of intensity out of the girls, which I think we’re missing right now,” Lynn said. “I’m not sure I know how to do that. I’m one of those people that’s a little more self-motivated. I don’t go on the court thinking you’re going to beat me down. ... Each girl is individually different. One of the biggest tricks to coaching is figuring out what button to push with each girl because it’s all different. I don’t want to lose.”

The Lady Panthers lost several players from last year’s team to graduation and attrition, which means a majority of the team is inexperienced.

Assistant Kristen Lynn graduated two years ago and was an All-County player for the Lady Panthers. As a former player, she understands the importance of building a strong volleyball IQ.

“I would also say another big thing is building a basic knowledge of the game,” she said. “How they go about certain situations because it’s not always necessarily about banging balls every time that you hit it. Sometimes you bang that ball, sometimes you tip that ball into the corner. They have to grow their volleyball IQ before they’re going to become that sort of force that we’re looking for.”

Several freshmen have stepped up into potential varsity roles, which has Bryan Lynn excited for the future.

“Kaitlyn Kilgore has been really good,” Lynn said. “She’s competitive. She’s a little quiet at first, but you get her in situations where you push her and she’s competitive. You’ll see, even if we’re running sprints, there’s her and another girl. You see that out of Kilgore, that drive and that competitive spirit coming out in her.

“Abby Scarborough is another one of our freshmen, she’s really kind of come around,” he added. “She’s really got a long ways to go, but she’s a kid I can see some potential in. She does listen and she does what you ask of her. When we went to camp at UT, that’s when I started really seeing her.”

Before the season officially begins Aug. 19 at Roane County High School, the Lady Panthers will continue to work on fundamentals, such as passing and serving.

“The biggest discussion of the day is passing,” Lynn said. “We’ve got to get where we can pass the ball consistently, and we have to have a level of intensity and hustle that we simply don’t have. They just don’t get the level of effort that they’re going to need to put forth in these district games. Right now, we’re really struggling to pass the ball. Other than that, I think our hitting is OK. We’ve got some girls that can hit, but we don’t hit with power. You need to step on that court and be a dominating force.”