LC volleyball learning from early mistakes

Lenoir City High School senior Olivia Elliott leaps for a spike during practice Thursday.

Despite dropping the first two matches of the season, the Lenoir City High School Lady Panthers volleyball team is excited to be back on the court and competing at a high level.

Lenoir City opened the season Aug. 18 with a tough 3-0 loss to the Karns High School Lady Beavers.

“It was good, but I think a lot of them were nervous,” Bryan Lynn, LCHS head volleyball coach, said. “I was a little bit concerned about how the referees would be since we’ve had no jamborees, we’ve had no play days, but they were very good about where the girls were out of rotation and they could get it corrected. The COVID stuff is a little odd with the start of the game and you can’t shake hands, you can’t say, ‘Hey, good game.’ Other than that, I think the fan support was good. Everyone was wearing a mask, everyone was socially distanced on the bench. It was just nice to get back to playing and have some normalcy to life again.”

Sydney Cook, LCHS senior captain, said the transition to playing again has been slow but welcomed.

“We had a lot of trouble with rotations, so I think that’s one factor that we’re going to work on,” she said. “Also just trying to pick the energy up because it’s more or less we’re just doing pass, set, hit. We need to start speeding up the game and also going in with a good mindset instead of saying, ‘Farragut, they’re good,’ but we can’t let that overtake us.”

The Lady Panthers lost 3-0 to Christian Academy of Knoxville on Aug. 19.

“I thought both matches were good. I thought they were good learning experiences,” Lynn said. “With CAK, they’re at a different level than we’re at. I expect them to be closer to what we see with our district teams. The CAK match, I thought that was a really good learning experience. It was a good experience for the freshmen because we had four freshmen playing. We ended up having to play a sophomore in the third set that had never played varsity before, so we basically had five of our 10 players had a match or two under their belt.”

Lynn said the team needs to learn how to finish sets on a strong note, which is something the Lady Panthers struggled with last season.

“One of the issues we had last year, which was not being able to finish, not being able to close out games, that happened Monday with JV,” he said. “We were ahead 23-18 and lost 25-23. Varsity in the third set, we were up 24-22 and ended up losing 26-24. That’s one of the things we talked about in practice is we’ve got to learn to finish. When we get there, we’ve got to be able to finish those teams off. That happened to us against Loudon twice last year. Twice in the final two sets both times, we let Loudon come back from down and put us out. Other than that, I was pleased.”

The Lady Panthers took on the Loudon High School Lady Redskins on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime.

Lenoir City will play its first District 3-3A match of the season at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against the William Blount High School Lady Governors.

“I don’t know what they lost from last year, but I do know they lost their big hitter,” Lynn said. “They’re pretty much loaded, and I know Heritage had 15 freshmen last year. I think they had three teams — a freshmen team, a JV team and a varsity. Just the sheer numbers, and they’re just a different level than we’re at right now. We’ve got some really good freshmen, a lot of sophomores, so we’re just trying to build them and teach them how to play volleyball. When we face William Blount, it’s going to be tough in here.”

Cook believes the Lady Panthers have what it takes to pull the upset.

“We’re expecting them to be good, no doubt,” she said. “I think if we really put our minds to it at practice, I think we might have a chance. I think the seniors, we can do something.”