CHURCH HILL – Tyrone Smith said his Volunteer Lady Falcons have lost a lot but still have a lot.
Volunteer lost a lot of experience with the graduation of seven seniors: Emma Grace Bice, Autumn Deal, Bryna Minton, Allie Parsons, Chloe Salyer, Kiersten Trent and Tieran Whalen.
“We lost seven seniors last year, so that was a lot,” Smith said. “But since the summer time, we brought those young girls up with our JV team leading to the JV championship. We’ve got those coming up. We’re taking every day by storm. We’re young.
“We’ve got four seniors who are going to play big minutes for us and do a lot for us,” Smith said, referring to Raenah Barton, Tinsley Whalen, Kiley Trent and Maddie Sanderlin.
“Honestly, everybody holds a lot of rope in this success we’re going to have. If one falls, we all do. We’re excited about it. We still have the second-team all-conference player, Kenady Knittel, here, and Atlee (Dean) leading our point,” Smith said.
“Our bigs this year are great: Tinsley Whalen, Maddie Sanderlin and Raenah Barton. Guard-wise, Aliyah Crawley is a big help. We’ve got a lot. I’m excited about us this year,” Smith said.
Starting for Volunteer will be three juniors – Dean at point guard, Knittel at wing, Crawley at forward – and one sophomore – Audrey Evans at two-guard.
Players will rotate at post. “It depends on who we play. If it’s somebody fast-paced, it’s Tinsley Whalen. If it’s someone really big, (6-2) Maddie Sanderlin will. Raenah will. Really, we can play Raenah at the four, Tinsley at the five. We just have to pick and choose, one game at a time,” Smith said.
The coach noted some improvements made by some Lady Falcons in the offseason.
“Atlee Dean’s shot has gotten a lot better,” he said. “She really didn’t shoot the ball last year. Aliyah Crawley is more athletic than she was last year. Maddie Sanderlin and Tinsley Whalen have worked hard over the summer and have gotten better.
“And Kenady Knittel is driving more and not settling as much. I think everybody had gotten better,” Smith said. “Last year, when I got the job, I got it in dead month, so I couldn’t really do anything until tryouts.”
The Lady Falcons went to King and UVA-Wise team camps over the summer.
“Us going to team camp this summer and playing together this summer, we got to learn how to play with each other with our personnel. And we played a couple of play days and a couple of scrimmages, so it was good. It helped a lot. We’ve just got to take that into this year,” Smith said.
“We want to be a more up-tempo team, try to compete and press a little bit, try to turn the team over. We’re real athletic this year. Small but fast. The experience level, we have to work on that. Some of these girls have played varsity for one year. Some of them have been playing all their years. When you put them together, it’s different.
“One thing about them is they’re a family. They work hard together. They’re learning together. They do everything together. If we can continue that, I think we’ll have a successful year,” Smith said.
“We want to have a winning season,” Smith said of team goals for the year. “We want to have a winning record. We want to be top in our conference – if it’s top four, top three, top two. We want to be top. We want to get some recognition from some teams,” he said.
Smith said the Lady Falcons want teams to come into the game knowing they’re going to have a battle on their hands.
“We’ve got this thing: We don’t want to be everybody’s Senior Night,” Smith said. “We want everybody to look at us like, ‘Man, Volunteer is coming to town.’ We’ve got to compete. We’ve got to change it, take every day by storm, we’ve just got to keep getting better to do that.
“We’re excited about this year. We really are,” Smith said.
Smith believes Dobyns-Bennett and Science Hill are the Big 7 favorites in 2019-20.
“I honestly think, until they’re beaten this year, our top two conference teams right now are D-B and Science Hill. Science Hill only lost one person off their starting five. Then you’ve still got D-B. Bill Francis does a great job. Crockett didn’t really lose nobody, either, so they’re going to be competitive. I think Lawson does a great job at Cherokee,” Smith said.
“Our conference is like the old Big East. There are no nights off when you play anybody in our conference. You can’t take any nights off in our conference,” Smith said. “The top three teams in our conference, until they’re beaten, are Science Hill, D-B and Boone.
The Lady Falcons have added Clay Minton to the coaching staff.
“I call him the guru of plays,” Smith said. “We’ve got a whole new team. A whole new coaching staff and whole new team. We’re just going to keep it together and keep battling.”