Coach Judy Pruett lost some key performers from her 2010 volleyball team, but the Lady Mustangs have reloaded and are expected to be among title contenders in District 5-AAA again this year.
Walker Valley’s volleyball fortunes will be paced by the play of a quartet of seniors ... Caitlin Geren, Leslie Still, Jessica Stepp and Morgan Elrod.
“We’re optimistic and the girls are ready to start (a new season),” Pruett said in a recent interview. “We lost three seniors, but several district teams lost key performers.”
One of the biggest losses by the Lady Mustangs was height, with the graduation of 6-foot-plus Kayla Sewell, who will play at The University of the South in Sewanee. This year’s group is more average in size, but abundant in athleticism.
“We don’t have a dominating hitter, therefore we will go to all our hitters,” Pruett added. “Our strengths will be defense and service. We need to improve on our hitting and blocking.”
The Lady Mustangs’ coach said the unity of her team this year is as good as it’s been in recent years.
Pruett expects the district to be very balanced this year, with Soddy-Daisy and Ooltewah fielding very strong teams once again.
The four Walker Valley seniors are also optimistic about the team’s prospects this season.
“I think we can be really good this year,” said Geren, who got considerable playing time a year ago. “We’ve worked hard in practice and our overall attack is much better.”
“We could be much more effective this year, with the work we’ve put in,” said Still.
“We lost a lot of height, but we’ll be better than expected,” added Stepp.
Elrod said this year’s Walker Valley team has good camaraderie. “We talk and lot and we communicate well,” she said.
The seniors, Pruett and the remainder of the team are impatient to get the 2011 season under way ... beginning Tuesday against the Cleveland High Lady Raiders.
In addition to her four seniors, Pruett has seven juniors and a sophomore on her varsity unit.
The varsity roster includes juniors Katie Wilds, Eryn Walker, Emma Claudio, Bristol Snider, Autumn Sizemore, Taylor Pruett and Christian Whittemore. The lone sophomore on the varsity is Baylee Boen.
The Lady Mustangs open their 2011 campaign with a tough match against Cleveland, then travel to Rhea County Thursday. Walker Valley will participate in an early season tournament Friday and Saturday at Farragut High School in West Knoxville.
There will be 23 teams in the weekend event, including Soddy-Daisy, Signal Mountain, Hixson, GPS and Baylor from the Cleveland-Chattanooga area. Farragut and Oak Ridge are sponsoring the tournament.