After a two-month cessation from all team activities, the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers volleyball team was able to officially start summer workouts Monday evening.
Head coach Bryan Lynn was relieved to be back in the gym after missing spring conditioning.
“Normally, we would’ve had open gyms early on,” he said. “Once basketball ended, my plan was late April, early May to let the kids in here and get some open gyms and some time to play. Some of the girls played club ball, some of the girls played ball at Club United or the winter leagues. I know there was a few of them planning to play spring leagues, but that didn’t happen. It’s been a bit of a setback, so it’s been a while since some of them have touched a ball.”
The team held tryouts Monday and Tuesday and will have its first official team practice Thursday. Rising senior Briana Hiers admitted the break was tough, especially for incoming freshmen.
“At first the gyms were closed, so I couldn’t work out. Eventually, I got back into the gym, and I’m still not really in shape yet,” she said. “We’re missing some players that didn’t play last year, so that’s kind of tough. But overall, I feel like the freshmen are more experienced this year.”
Lynn provided at-home workouts and routines for the girls, but nothing compares to the feeling of being back in the gym and hitting with teammates in live-action scenarios.
“We sent out some stuff earlier this month to try and give them conditioning things to work on, drills that they could do at the house by themselves, pass off the walls, setting off the walls,” he said. “It was things they could work on individually so they weren’t out of shape and not having touched a volleyball since October.”
Coaches are enforcing social-distancing guidelines to protect players in practice. The team is split into halves each session and only three or four players are allowed on each side at a time while the gym’s net separates the court.
Coaches and players also thoroughly clean and sanitize every ball, net and pads after use.
“Even though we had open gyms, we were limited in what we could do,” Lynn said. “We couldn’t pass volleyballs, so we did a lot of wall work, we did a lot passing balls against the wall, setting balls against the wall. We did a fair amount of just conditioning stuff. We talked about hitting progressions, hitting steps, blocking footwork, all of that type stuff. We did serving stuff, but there’s only so much you can do when you have to use your own ball.”
Hiers believes the team responded well given the circumstances.
“I feel like it was a lot better than last year, even though it’s much later and we haven’t done much,” she said. “Usually, it’s like May when we’re trying out.”
As a senior and team captain, Hiers will be responsible for leading the younger girls and encouraging them during an uncertain season.
“Personally, I want to beat my time and be faster with touches and stuff, but also I want to bring all of the freshmen in,” she said. “Last year, we were very distant with them, we didn’t do much. I feel like on the court, you could tell we weren’t very close.”
Lynn hopes to return to normal practice settings within the next two months but could arrange creative ways to get in more work.
“If we take them outside, we can have up to 50 at one time. All of a sudden, that opens it up and we can do conditioning and try to squeeze in on the football field or soccer field,” he said. “I’ve actually considered, I’ve got an outdoor net I can set up out there, I can support them and move around. I might take some and set it up out here so that way we can practice everyone outside. We’ll do some stuff like that. The biggest thing is we’ve got to get touches.”