Loudon High School head volleyball coach Jody Bunch had plenty to be excited about Monday night following the Lady Redskins’ 3-0 sweep of the Alcoa High School Lady Tornadoes.
The Lady Redskins came out firing early in the first set to win 25-14 and never looked back to clinch the final two sets 25-7 and 25-18.
“That’s a big win,” Bunch said. “They are in the other side of the region that we would face, I guess in the sectionals is where they’d be. So to get a win over a storied program like that is a big deal for us.”
The Lady Redskins were able to exploit Alcoa’s middle defense.
“They had a large hole in the middle,” Bunch said. “Our middles did a great job of making sure they were on top of it when it came to defense. They had some put backs, they had some blocks. Then our outsides, when we actually got to hit, were taking care of their middle — they had a large hole in the middle and kind of playing back on defense. I guess they were expecting a longer hit, but we just kind of killed them on the floor.”
LHS senior Sydney Smith had another big night for the Lady Redskins and led the team with 15 kills.
“She has become more of a leader late in this season,” Bunch said. “She has really stepped up, not only with her play, but making sure that everybody else is where they’re supposed to be, kind of showing them how to play defense, talk and communicate.”
Several other players also impacted the game, including junior Grace Hickman, who recorded six blocks.
“I think I did good tonight,” she said. “I got a lot of tips and blocks and was really aware. I had a lot of awareness tonight.”
Hickman has been a key player for the Lady Redskins the last three seasons with her height and power, but has taken the next step this season as one of the team’s leading blockers. She credits hours of practice time during the offseason for her success.
“I paid attention to really where the holes were more,” she said. “I paid a lot more attention to the court before I went up to the ball instead of just going up to try and get it.”
The Lady Redskins took on South Doyle High School on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime, but still have three more matches left in the regular season.
The team will travel across the bridge Thursday in hopes of sweeping the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers for the first time. They will follow up Monday looking to clinch the District 5-2A district title against the Sequoyah High School Lady Chiefs on the road.
“I think we can finish the season strong, and we should take all of our regular season games,” Bunch said. “Our biggest competition is probably Sequoyah, and that’s our last district game. If we win that, we win the regular season, and then we’ll go into district play. We hope to win the tournament, host region and, hopefully, go from there.”
For Hickman, the season has a completely different vibe than the previous two, where the Lady Redskins finished 10-30 overall and 6-7 in district play.
The Lady Redskins have already surpassed total wins the last two years sitting at 12-5 and 5-0 in District 5-2A.
“I feel like we’ve grown a lot together,” Hickman said. “We’ve played together more, so it’s helped us a lot. Coming together more this season, I think it’s made us better on the court. We hope we can win the rest of our games and keep playing like a team.”