After making it all the way to sectional play last season, Morristown East’s volleyball team will be a work in progress when the Lady Hurricanes open their season at Jefferson County on Thursday.
The Lady ‘Canes graduated eight seniors from last year and will be putting a very young unit on the court in 2019.
Coach Holly Drinnon’s team finished the 2018 season with a 26-11 record and won the Inter Mountain Conference and district tournament titles before losing at Heritage in the Class AAA Sectional.
There are not a whole lot of returning players as Sarah Jones is the lone senior on the 12-player varsity roster. Joining Jones are six juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.
“I guess the best way to describe this team is that it is a work in progress,” said Drinnon. “But I really like this team. They are a great bunch of girls who are working very hard to be a good team.”
To make matters even tougher for Drinnon is the fact that three of the 12 did not participate in the annual Inter Mountain Conference Jamboree Thursday afternoon at Isenberg-Siler Gymnasium. The Lady ‘Canes have one player with mono, one out with an injury and another who is out of town.
“Having those players out and the fact that we weren’t able to get in a play day is making it really hard to get into a set rotation,” said Drinnon. “Tonight we had only three girls out there who even played varsity last season.”
Drinnon said getting the young players more experience is the big thing right now. “We’ve got some girls who have played but we don’t have a lot of experience because several of them haven’t played club ball. That’s a big thing now. The girls playing club ball allows them to get a huge amount of experience.
“As a very young team, the main thing we need to work on is consistency,” the coach said. “We need to be consistent in whatever we’re going, whether its defense or offense or serving the ball. Right now, that’s just kind of an up and down thing.”
“I have a lot of options on the lineups that I can put together and we’ll use a lot of people.”
Obviously, East is very young, as all three freshmen will be playing a great deal along with one of the sophomores.
Jones will play in the middle defensively when she returns to action. She was one of the better blockers last season and will also be one of the hitters offensively. “She’s not a big kid but she’s just a very, very smart player.”
The coach will have two daughters starting for her, junior Randi and sophomore Jaci. Both are very solid players. Randi is the starting libero and Jaci is one of the setters and an emotional leader. Junior Jules Lawson is the other setter.
Reese Forester is another returning player who will play along the front side and be a hitter.
Finley Surber, Kierstin Bell and Laken Burnside are the freshmen who are being counted on. Surber and Bell both started as outside hitters on Thursday. Both show a lot of promise.
“Laken is a talented player who is really coming on. She’s been playing in the middle but can move outside, too,” Drinnon said.
Newcomer Irish Dils, who is 5-10, will be another hitter. “She was a setter up in Maine but she probably won’t set for us. She will play some middle and some back side.”
Sophomore Chadlyn Bryant is another player Drinnon said works very hard and is doing a good job. Carly Holt will also play defense and may hit outside.
Abbie Creech, who is also out right now, is a defensive specialist who will play along the back side when she returns.
In looking at the conference race, Drinnon said she didn’t feel there was a clear-cut favorite. “I think Jefferson County and West both have a lot of experience and Cocke County has really improved.”
When asked about the key for her team’s success, the coach responded. “We will go to Jefferson County and then go to a tournament. That tournament will really help us a lot because we should have our whole team back by then.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some things done and set a rotation. Right now, they’re not used to a rotation because we’re trying all kinds of things.”
Drinnon said, “I look for this team to show improvement throughout the season. Right now, we’re a work in progress.”