LHS volleyball making history

Loudon High School’s Gracyn Smith makes a dig Thursday in the Lady Redskins’ 3-1 win over Sequoyah High School.

Following the Loudon High School Lady Redskins’ 3-1 dominant win Thursday over the Sequoyah High School Lady Chiefs, LHS head volleyball coach Jody Bunch could not keep from grinning.

For the first time in program history, the Lady Redskins are off to a 2-0 start in District 5-2A play.

“This is a huge win for our district campaign,” Bunch said. “We are 2-0 in district, and I think that’s the first time we’ve ever been 2-0. They are the biggest competition — Sequoyah and Kingston are — and we’ve already taken them down, so it’s massive for our team and for our excitement and composure. We’re just so excited.”

Senior Sydney Smith led the team again in blocks with 14, while junior Grace Hickman finished second with four.

“It’s a district win, so it meant a lot to win,” Hickman said. “It felt good. I think I played pretty well. The players, together, we kept each other up the whole time. When we messed up, we just kind of brushed it off and kept going.”

Despite having one of the best offenses in Class 2A, Bunch is seeking improvement.

“They played technically OK,” she said. “They’re still not where I want them. We still have so much potential to unlock, especially playing as a team — we’ve not done that. We lack communication, so I think once we can do that, it will be better. I know that we’re winning, but it’s still not where I want them. Our hits, we had a lot of mishots long, especially with our girls who are not jumping to their full capacity. Our setter is young. She got two calls, so it kind of rattled her.”

Loudon has four remaining district matches, which means Bunch must keep the team composed and focused to come out on top as district champions for the first time since 2016.

“It’s just about discipline,” she said. “We talk about discipline a lot in practice about not goofing around on the bench ... having fun, but to the extent that we’re learning, we’re still competing. We want to raise our competition level, and I think we’ve done it so far this year to levels that we haven’t seen. I keep trying to push them to compete, but stay in your zone — be disciplined and do technical things correctly. Don’t be one-arming it, don’t be going crazy with your body. Body position is a big topic for us.”

In the first six matches, the Lady Redskins captured 18 sets and managed to give up just seven, which is also another record-setting feat.

“Sydney came in with this thing at the beginning of the year, and she calls it ‘flush it’,” Bunch said. “She literally means to flush it down the toilet. We all just say, ‘Flush it.’ I don’t want to say they’ve not won a set on us ... we’ve not had a team that’s just beat us in a set, but we’ve done little things that we’ve lost the set. We have to remind ourselves, ‘Look, this is what we did wrong. We can do things more volleyball-minded instead of losing our focus’.”

The Lady Redskins defeated Tellico Plains High School 3-0 Monday night to improve to 7-0 overall, which moved LHS to No. 8 in the Associated Press Class 2A volleyball poll.

“We pretty much dismantled everything that they had,” Bunch said. “They fought pretty hard and had some great hustle, but Sydney took charge and some of middles stepped up, so we didn’t have much trouble. It’s a large win. We’re trying to keep motion moving forward.”

Hickman credits much of the team’s early success to the strong core of upperclassmen, led by Smith, Shea Ervin, Morgan Lanham and Maylee Cooley.

“Just the team, like this year, we’re all super close,” Hickman said. “We’re really good friends, and we support each other a lot. I think that helps a lot with communication and everything. The past two years, we had trouble communicating, and I think we’ve stepped up this year because we don’t have a large older class. I think the junior class is stepping up a lot this year and working together.”

The Lady Redskins will face a series of challenging opponents this weekend against some of the top teams in the Southeast in the Rocky Top Classic in Sevierville.