Walters State volleyball coach Megan Blaylock wants to win. That drive is not a secret with her, or with assistant coach Erika Waycaster, both members of the inaugural volleyball team at the college in 2012.
The work ethic from the coaching staff has the Lady Senators on the verge of national breakthrough, as Walters State has inched closer and closer to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament each season under their guidance.
Entering the 2019 season, Blaylock feels this year’s team could be the one to burst onto the national scene, despite lots of inexperience from a talented roster.
“Practice has been really good so far,” Blaylock said. “I know how I want this season to play out, but I don’t really know if it will play out like I hope. I can see us being pretty successful, and if we put in the effort and the drive, really everything we need in order to be successful, then we can be pretty good.
“If our girls put in the work it takes and continue to get better every day, then we have the potential to be right back where we were last year.”
The Lady Senators return just two sophomores from last season’s NJCAA Region VII and TCCAA championship team, as Courtney Dotson and Alexis Wakefield begins their second season at the setter/outside hitter and libero/defensive specialist positions, respectively.
Nine freshmen will begin their first season under Blaylock and Waycaster’s tutelage, including Amanda Singleton, Ashley Morrison, Jania Hill, Taylor Tigue, Gracie Smith, Olivia Oxendine, Alaysia McGhee, Aubrey Cobb and Hannah Daniel.
“I’m really excited about this group of kids,” Blaylock said. “I think we can do a lot with them. We have a lot of options. We only have 11 girls, but each of them can play at multiple positions. There is a lot we can do with them rotation wise, and I’m really excited to get to experiment with them this weekend with four matches. We will probably run 6 or 7 rotations this weekend, and I’m excited to see what will work and see how well they click together.”
“This team is flowing together pretty well in practice, and the connection is there off the court. We just have to find a consistent connection on the court. You can see it in brief moments during certain drills and when we scrimmage. Once they get their communication on the same page and start to play together and get comfortable with one another, I think they can be pretty impressive. They have a lot of potential.”
Having every player on the roster capable of playing two or three different spots is a must at the junior college level, and Blaylock said this team’s versatility is one of its biggest strengths.
“Our versatility is a game changer,” Blaylock said. “You have to be able to do more than one thing at the junior college level, and you have to be able to contribute. Historically, we have only recruited players who could play more than one position, and that has worked out really well for us.”
The schedule begins with a road trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina, to take part in the Spartanburg Methodist Invitational. WSCC will face College of Lake County and Wallace State-Hanceville on Friday before taking on Cape Fear and Spartanburg Methodist on Saturday.
The home opener will be on Wednesday, Aug. 28, against Bryan College, with the next home match on Saturday, Aug. 31, against Surry. Those are the first two of nine home matches this season inside ‘Z’ Buda Gymnasium. The Lady Senators will entertain TCCAA rivals Cleveland State (Sept. 17) and Chattanooga State (Sept. 20) while making return trips to both schools in October.
WSCC will participate in the Blazer Classic at Vincennes University in Indiana on Sept. 6-7 and the Wallace State Invitational in Hanceville, Alabama on Oct. 11-12. The NJCAA Region VII and TCCAA Tournament will be held on Oct. 25-26 at Chattanooga State. The winner of the Region VII Tournament will face the Region X winner for a berth in the district title game for a berth in the national tournament.
“If everything works out how I think it can, and we progress like I think we will, I can see us in the district championship game,” Blaylock said.
The final home match and sophomore day will be on Tuesday, Oct. 29, against Catawba Valley, the perennial favorite in Region X.
“We scheduled Catawba Valley for our last regular season match for a reason,” Blaylock said. “Looking back at the last few years, if things play out like they have, Catawba Valley should be at the top of their region, so we need to see them late in the season.
“Getting to a national tournament is something that is kind of expected by all the athletic teams here at Walters State, and it’s become the norm for all our other teams. I want it to become the norm for us as well. I feel like we have fast-tracked it a little bit, with this just being our eighth year, and to get to the national tournament in our first 10 years as a program would be outstanding. It’s definitely a goal for us.”