The loss of three exceptional seniors on the varsity volleyball team at Tyler Consolidated High School should leave gaping holes in the line-up of head coach Richard Summers, but that does not seem to be the case.
Though hard hitting Heather Suter, Alison Clegg and Lynsee Casteel's names will not appear on the roster this season, their legacy, as well as those who have gone on before them, remain, leaving the Knights as strong, solid and optimistic as ever.
"We lost three very good, very solid seniors on the team," Summers explained. "And of course we're going to miss them, but we know every year we're going to lose kids from the team, we know we're going to have to replace strong players and revamp positions. It's high school, it's the game. We have to build on what we have."
On the heels of a Sectional championship last year, Summers and assistant coach Tracy Summers have the same goals in mind this year as they do every year, win the Sectional, win the Regional, and win the State. It's a no brainer.
This year however, for the first time in a long time, none of the players on the Lady Knight volleyball team have never been past the Regional tournament. "That's our main goal," Summers said.
"These girls are capable of being as good as they want to be, we want them to be good enough to get past the Regional this year. We hope they are hungry enough to want it."
Leading the team will be three returning seniors who have each seen a lot of court time, both in and out of season with camps, club ball, etc. Sami Jones, Keri Suter and Whitney Williams each have devoted hours to the sport and have the quick skills to prove it.
Juniors Makayla Clegg, Torrye Cline, Haylea LeMasters, Allison Wable, Shay Yonaley, and Abby Atkinson all return with experience along with sophomores Megan Carpenter, Hillary Casteel, Carly Fletcher, Devinn Moore, Jasmine Moore, and Sydney Reed.
"All these kids are returners," the coach said. "They know we expect them to work hard and I know they'll continue to learn and grow as the season continues. They're all good kids and if everything goes the way it's supposed to, we'll see some success."
Five freshmen have taken up the volleyball mantle at Tyler Consolidated this season: Kerstyn Cline, Bridget Matthews, Lillie Or, Tiffany Spencer and Sydney Yoho.
"Our strength is going to be the fact that we have 20 girls who want to be here," Summers said. "They are eager and enthusiastic, they seem to get along with each other and have a good time. That makes for excellent team dynamics, which hopefully prove to be a plus in the win column."
As far as weaknesses go, Summers said in a perfect world a team would have six experienced seniors to rotate around on the court.
"But very few teams can boast those numbers," he said.
"We're fortunate to have the numbers we do and that they are all ready to play volleyball.
The middle school volleyball program, under the direction of Janet Cline, earned praise from the coach as well.
"It's thanks to the middle school program that we have athletes who are knowledgeable about the sport when they come to us. We don't feel like we're starting on page one with them, we can skip some pages to get to the main story line."
The Lady Knights will take to the courts wearing brand new volleyball uniforms this season, purchased by the Tyler Consolidated Athletic Boosters. "We are very grateful to the Boosters," said the assistant coach. "The girls love them, and we're all very appreciative."
Tyler Consolidated's season will get underway on Aug. 31 with a tri-match at University. On Sept. 1 the team travels to Williamstown and on Sept. 3 they will host their first home tri with John Marshall, Linsly and Valley.