“All of them are maybe not starters, but they all come in to different positions and they all have accepted their positions very well. If they are short and they know they are a defensive specialist or back row, that is where they are focusing,” Lady Mustangs coach Judy Pruett said of the girls’ dedication.
“We have a senior libero and a senior setter and a senior middle hitter. Each one of those players are going to be key for us. We don’t have any one, huge player that we will go to every single time. All the girls will be a team. We are going to win as a team and we are going to lose as a team.”
For the coach, the year will be different in that not only will she be coaching as a coach, she will have to put her feelings as a mother aside to lead the Lady Mustangs.
“For me, it is going to be kind of a personal season as well. I do have a senior on the team (Taylor Pruett) and I have a freshman also on the team (Madison Pruett). They will both be on the varsity team. I’m really excited in that aspect,” said the coach/mom.
Pruett’s eldest daughter is excited about the upcoming season and said she expects nothing but the best effort from every Lady Mustang who takes to the court. She feels Walker Valley has the tools it takes to make a run at the state championship.
“I expect our team to be pretty strong. I think we are going to go farther than the past years because we are all best friends and we are a lot closer than we have been in the past. We work really hard,” said Taylor.
“I expect myself to give 110 percent because I want our team to go far and that can’t be based on five girls and not six. All six of us have to work hard.”
The senior Pruett will see action alongside fellow seniors Bristol Snider, Christian Whittemore, Autumn Sizemore and Eryn Walker. To a person, the group expects nothing less than an all-out effort from every member on the team on every point during the season.
“What I expect is for us to go really far this year because we are all really dedicated. We’ve all played volleyball in the offseason and I know we all want it really, really bad this year and we all want to win and do our best. Everyone here is really dedicated. We are all best friends and hang out outside of the season.
“Off the court we do a lot of things together. We are just really tight. We have that bond on the court where we kind of know each other and know what each other wants. We have played together for a really long time, so we’re used to each other and I feel we are a really scrappy team and can pull through in the end,” Snider stated.
“I know I want to win really bad, along with everyone else. I expect myself to give it all for the team and play my best no matter what. Because if I don’t do my best, I can’t expect everybody else to do their best. I have to play my hardest for myself and for the team to win in the end,” Snider said of her desire to succeed.
Whittemore said her goal is to give her all and feels her fellow Lady Mustangs will do the same.
“I expect everybody to go out there and play their absolute hardest and go for everything. We’ve worked together for four years now and I think everyone is going to do well and we will go really far,” she said. “For myself, I expect to go for everything, work really hard, lead the team and encourage everybody.”
The Lady Mustangs have prepared continuously in the offseason in preparation for the upcoming season. Camps, club ball and outside sports activities have kept the girls in shape and ready to hit the court.
“We are really excited about this season. We have had a really good preseason. We played at the Choo-Choo camp and the varsity went to UTK for three days. This group of seniors is the first group I have had where all five played club volleyball, which means they played year-round. It is not necessarily the only sport they play. But, they have focused their time and energy on volleyball.
The training, according to Sizemore, will continue throughout the season with every member of the team playing as one.
“This year I expect the team to go very far because we always give 110 percent on the court and we are best friends off the court. The way we play together is great,” Sizemore said of her expectations. “I expect myself to alway give 110 percent on the court. My team relies on me and it’s not just a one-person team, it’s a six-person team.”
The roster numbers are not exactly what Pruett has been use to in recent years, but the coach said what matters is the quality of athlete on the court at crunch time.
“We have smaller numbers here at Walker Valley than I have had since I first came. When I first came, I probably had around 30 girls, which was way too many for the whole program for freshman, junior varsity and varsity. This year we have 20, so it has scaled back some. But, the quality of players we have I would take any day over the quantity,” Pruett said.
Senior Lady Mustang Eryn Walker also expects good things from her peers and said she will do her part to keep spirits headed in the right direction, and team chemistry in balance.
“I expect the team to go really far. We have a lot of team chemistry and we work really hard on and off the court. I feel we will do really well this year,” said Walker. “I will work really hard myself and will not get down on myself. I will do everything I can to keep my team up.”
The experience of Walker and the other four seniors will play a large role in the success of the squad throughout the season. Lack of size may be an issue on occasion, but hard work, coach Pruett said, is nothing new to the girls and playing as a team will help the Lady Mustangs achieve many team and personal goals in 2012.
“This group has more experience than we have had in the past. We are not the tallest group, but they hustle and work really hard in practices. They work really hard when they are scrimmageing and they are excited. One of our big goals is not to get down on each other or get down on the team. We want to just go to the next point or the next game.”
After a final preseason get-together at Girls Preparatory School Aug. 11, the Lady Mustangs leap into the fire against perennial power Soddy-Daisy Aug. 21.
“We jump right into it with Soddy, GPS and East Ridge. We are really excited. I think it’s going to be a good group,” said coach Pruett.