Lady Redskins begin season hot

Loudon High School's Sydney Smith spikes the ball Aug. 27 in the Lady Redskins' 3-1 win over the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers.

The Loudon High School Lady Redskins volleyball team (4-0, 1-0 District 5-2A) is off to the best start in the program’s 10-year history.

The Lady Redskins picked up, arguably, the biggest win in program history Aug. 27 when they defeated the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers 3-1 for the first time.

“Honestly, we’ve never even come close,” Jody Bunch, LHS head volleyball coach, said. “We’ve struggled just to even get double-digit points on them, so this is a big victory for us to beat them in four sets.”

“It was really big since that’s the first time I’ve beaten Lenoir City ever,” Morgan Lanham, LHS sophomore, added. “I think I did OK, but I know I can do better.”

The Lady Redskins have dominated opponents in an unprecedented way, thanks to a large number of upperclassmen, including Michigan All-State transfer Sydney Smith.

Smith recorded 17 kills against the Lady Panthers, which brings her season total to 95 in four matches.

“She was a large presence on the floor,” Bunch said. “I don’t think she had her best game to be quite honest. We just kind of didn’t do the fundamental things, but Sydney is a huge presence. Even when she has an off game, she makes a difference.”

Lanham, along with Shea Ervin, Grace Hickman and Maylee Cooley have also performed well.

“We’re in kind of unknown waters,” Bunch said. “Our biggest competition is usually LC and Kingston, and we’ve already taken them down. Looking forward to the rest of the season and the rest of the district, we have very high hopes that we’ll remain undefeated. Sequoyah will be our next big test. Mostly the junior class, it’s stepping up big time. Morgan Lanham and Maylee Cooley, on the outside for us, have put up great numbers for us. not only hitting wise, but digs and defense.”

Because the roster is filled with experienced players, Bunch has been able to focus on advanced techniques.

“It’s not just how you pass or how you move on defense now,” she said. “We’re focusing on different schemes when we hit, we’re focusing on getting our offense much faster and running a couple of faster hits with our freshman setter who is doing really well.

“We’re moving into a better alignment on defense and being able to transition on defense. They’re doing a great job of learning very quickly,” she added. “The last two years I’ve been with the program, we just kind of worked on basics. When I came to Loudon, they honestly didn’t even know how to block. They’re responding very well and they’re very intelligent. Our volleyball IQ is going up a whole lot.”

The addition of Smith has not only helped the team win, but her presence has caused other players to develop.

Lanham believes the Lady Redskins will be able to compete and win the District 5-2A title this season.

“Yeah, practicing with her makes you feel more comfortable with teams at her level,” Lanham said. “I think we can definitely win district and go to regionals. I think we can, hopefully, go further than that.”