The 2013 volleyball season kicked off right on time as usual for the Lady Knights at Tyler Consolidated as 18 players ran onto the court for the traditional "midnight madness" volleyball practice in August.
With the first practice, the Ladies in Silver and Black began a season that brings with it very high expectations from the players, coaching staff and fans well versed in the sport of volleyball, all anticipating a season that will at least meet, if not surpass last years' 45-5 season that led the 2012 team to finish second in the state when all was said and done.
It's a tall order and not one for the weak at heart to consider . . . but these are Lady Knights, challenges are their strong suit.
2013 Lady Knight volleyball
On their way to meeting those challenges the Consolidated team will lean heavily on their senior leadership to guide them. This year, the Lady Knights will led by four seniors, Megan Carpenter (MB), Hillary Casteel (OH/DS), Carly Fletcher (DS/L) and Sydney Reed (OH).
"Our seniors are focused, and determined and have shown the willingness to put in the work to have a good season," said veteran head coach of the team, Richard Summers. "Providing assistance to them is a very deep and talented group of underclassmen."
According to the coach, "We don't have a bad volleyball player on the team. We routinely interchange players and even when freshmen are on the floor, we don't have a substantial drop off in the quality of play."
Four juniors will return to the court, bringing with them loads of varsity game experience: Kerstyn Cline (S); Bridget Matthews (MB); Lilli Orr (DS); and Sydney Yoho (MB/OH).
Sophomores returning to the fold include: Ariel Fish (OH); Kaitlyn Gogan (DS); Breanna Hartley (DS/OH); and Madison Kissner (MB).
Five freshmen join the team this season, all with middle school experience and all ready to make a difference for the Knights: Abbie Fletcher (OH); Courtney Hoder (DS); Macy Long (S); Kylie Martin (OH/DS); and Madison West (OH/DS).
The hot spot on the court, the setter's position, will be filled by Cline this season, stepping into the role manned by her sister Torrye last year. She will be setting the ball to a wide array of hitters including Carpenter, Reed, Casteel and underclassmen, Fish, Matthews and Yoho. Fans can expect to see Casteel and Long backing up the setters position.
Senior Carly Fletcher will don the libero jersey for the Lady Knights, backed up by Gogan and Orr.
Summers says he is impressed with the offense his team is offering up so far this season. "Our hitters' techniques have looked really good and we are hitting the ball with more authority than I expected this early."
"Defensively, we have a lot of girls who are willing to play from the knees to the floor and they are picking up a lot of balls."
The Consolidated team will again face a very challenging schedule this year. The team will open with Warren and follow that up with University, St. Clairsville and perennial Class A powerhouses, Williamstown and Wirt.
"Everyone makes the playoffs in volleyball," Summers said. "If you want to be good in November, you need to play quality opponents and our schedule certainly has that."
With the official start to the actual season upon them, Summers is optimistic about his team's chances.
"These girls have been working incredibly hard, love playing volleyball and seem to get along really well."
"There are a lot of good volleyball teams in West Virginia, but this group of 18 girls has a real chance to be as good as anyone come November."
The Lady Knights will begin their season on Sept. 4, hosting Warren Local at Tyler Consolidated at 6 p.m. On Sept. 7 the team will host University, Linsly and St. Clairsville in a triangular at 10 a.m.; and on Sept. 12 the Williamstown Lady Jackets come to Tyler County.