For Monroe County volleyball teams, getting back to normal is more like a soft pass than a spike.
The Tellico Plains Lady Bears and Sequoyah Lady Chiefs are both undergoing the process of restarting team activities amid the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a careful movement, though.
“We are trying to get through a tryout process and follow COVID guidelines,” Tellico head coach Michelle Hamilton said. “I hope to be practicing as a full team by the end of the dead period.”
Volleyball season usually takes place during the fall, alongside football, girls soccer and golf.
As with so much during this time, exactly when local teams will take the court could be up for change.
Whether or not the season’s start date ultimately changes, though, the Lady Chiefs and Lady Bears are already having to make adjustments.
“Practices will be a bit different this year until further notice,” Sequoyah head coach Rebekah Monhollen said, “due to safety measures put in place by Monroe County and our administration. We have to practice in small groups so, unfortunately, I cannot have the whole team together, but I will be able to focus on individual skill groups until we can be all together again.”
Not having the entire team together may impact Sequoyah more than Tellico. The Lady Chiefs graduated last year’s strong senior class, including 2019 All-County MVP Grace Wiggins and fellow All-County selections Madison Miner and Allianna Shofner.
Sequoyah’s new leaders will have to gel with its underclassmen, and the more time on the court, the better. The Lady Chiefs have recent success to provide optimism, though; they’ve advanced to the Region 3-2A semifinals the past two seasons.
Sequoyah does boast All-County Rookie of the Year Kaiti Johnson, who will look to make a similar impact in her sophomore season.
Tellico isn’t without questions itself. The Lady Bears will have to replace multi-sport standout Kendra Watson, but do return fellow All-County players Joell Stinnett and Bailey Dalton.
“Once we get our team together we will start practice in a week and we will have to practice in rotations,” Hamilton said.
Local volleyball teams have already had to be flexible in dealing with this unique situation, and more change may be on the horizon.
For now, though, players and coaches are focused more on their optimism and excitement for what lies ahead.
“We have a lot of good potential with our incoming freshmen,” Monhollen said, “as well as growth with our returning players … We are just moving forward as best as we can and are looking forward to being on the court again.”