LHS volleyball clinches district championship

The Loudon High School Lady Redskins defeated Roane County High School’s Kingston Lady Yellow Jackets 3-2 Tuesday for the District 5-2A championship.

For a second consecutive year, the Loudon High School Lady Redskins volleyball team swept through the District 5-2A tournament last week to be crowned champions.

The Lady Redskins defeated the Sequoyah High School Lady Chiefs 3-1 Oct. 5 and followed up the next day with a 3-2 victory over Roane County High School’s Kingston Lady Yellow Jackets to clinch the program’s third title in four years.

“Our program has struggled in its entire existence so being able to have girls that are competitive and that want to win that district championship is just incredible for me,” Jody Bunch, LHS head volleyball coach, said. “I’ve been at Loudon for four years, head coach for two and we’ve won three out of the last four. It’s pretty impressive to me that in a short amount of time how far we’ve come and how we look to be at the top of our district every year.”

Seniors Maylee Cooley and Grace Hickman were crucial during the tournament.

“It felt really good because it is my senior year and that’s the year you want it most,” Cooley said. “We just all went all out.”

“That’s what meant the most was it being our last year,” Hickman added. “We got to win the district for our last year and going head-to-head with Kingston, it really pumped us more than usual.”

The Lady Redskins won 11 out of the last 16 matches, including a big 3-2 win Sept. 29 over cross-county rival Lenoir City High School to close out the regular season.

Bunch believes that match propelled the team to sweep through the district tournament after rallying from behind.

“I was very pleased with the heart that our girls showed at the end of that Lenoir City game,” Bunch said. “It took us five sets to beat them, but it kind of molded us together as a team and kind of propelled us into the districts. It meant quite a bit to me and the rest of the girls. They just never quit, which I hadn’t seen at all this year. We’d get down a few points and then they’d just give up a set. They didn’t give that up this time. Mayley Cooley served us to victory and really took it upon herself to take that libero role to a new height. We were down like 14-9 in the fifth set, and we won 16-14 — that’s unheard of.”

The Lady Redskins also racked up some postseason honors as Cooley, Casey Kyle and Kayla Irey were selected to the All-District 5-2A first team. Morgan Lanham and Olivia Moua were selected to the second team.

“I started out my career not really knowing what I was doing and then my sophomore year I was kind of getting better at it,” Cooley said. “My junior and senior year, I really tried my best, and I’ve been very happy with how I’ve done. It just feels great to be district champs two years in a row. It means a lot to me because I’ve tried really hard to get something this whole time, and I would rather it be my senior year than any other year.”

Loudon faced some challenges this season, primarily roster attrition, but Bunch believes the senior class of Cooley, Hickman, Lanham and Moua were instrumental in salvaging the season.

“Our seniors have stepped up immensely, especially in the last month,” Bunch said. “They are my first group that have went all the way through. Morgan and Maylee have been doing all the dirty work and have been getting passes. Morgan has been on fire from the outside. Grace Hickman had a rough middle of the season, but she has stepped up and has more aces than anybody on the team. Olivia Moua, who hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time the last three years, has held her own on the outside. She has an incredibly powerful arm and is smart with the ball. Just having that group of seniors for the underclassmen to look up to is super important to me.”

The Lady Redskins took on the Hixson High School Lady Tigers on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime in the Region 3-2A tournament semifinals.