CHURCH HILL – The Caroline Laek Chapter of Volunteer Lady Falcons Basketball History begins this Saturday with a challenge right off the bat.
Volunteer will play Dobyns-Bennett at Science Hill Saturday in a Hall of Fame game.
Laek, a Volunteer assistant for six years who led the junior varsity teams to regular season and tournament championships, succeeds Tyrone “Mugs” Smith, who resigned in April after four seasons to take the boys head coaching position at Tri-Cities Christian Academy.
“Coach Smith has done a great job at getting these girls to buy in and really commit in all aspects to Volunteer basketball,” Laek said after accepting the position. “So, the coaching staff and I are going to pick up where he left off and continue to make Volunteer girls basketball a team you don’t want to see on your schedule.”
Laek said the coaching change won’t create a huge upheaval.
“I don’t think it will be a whole lot different,” she said. “They kind of know what I expect, so it’s been a pretty easy transition. These girls have been around me since day one of their high school basketball careers. So, it will be business as usual as we start getting ready for the season.
“My whole philosophy is based around discipline. When you take care of the little things, on and off the court, everything else will fall into place,” Laek said.
Things on the court will look pretty similar.
“We’re hoping to be able to play man to man most of the time,” Laek said. “I would like us to gear in that direction. I feel like if you can guard somebody man to man, you can pretty much play anything. So, that’s kind of been our focus, really learning that and try to stay out of a zone as much as we can. Of course, that’s depending on who we play. That will also factor in.”
Personnel is pretty much the same, with a few changes.
“We lost three contributing seniors in Audrey Evans, Elise McKinney and Danielle Sizemore,” Laek said. “That leaves us with big shoes to fill. I believe we have girls ready to step up to fill those gaps.
“We might have a stretch of games where the same five start, then it might switch. But in general, it will probably go Emily Wyatt, Kendra Huff, Veda Barton, Ava Jackson, Jacie Begley and Emmerson Head, some sort of rotation of those,” Laek said.
Huff, a senior who just signed a letter of intent to play softball at UVA-Wise, is the Lady Falcons’ point guard. She’s a tough little distributor who can get her own shot when needed.
Six-foot juniors, Barton and Jackson, will anchor the post area. Wyatt can play inside and outside, while Begley and Head are deadly shooters from downtown. Head is a D-B transfer who had to sit out much of last season.
“She can shoot the ball well,” Laek said. “She’s scrappy on defense. She’s a quick kid. She plays really, really hard.”
With aggressive man to man defense, Volunteer will rotate several players into games.
“Addison Wright and Emily McPherson will both come in, and Gracie Lawson,” Laek said. “And freshman Emilee Mailloux will probably see the floor at times.”
Two sophomores will also battle for playing time: 6-0 post player Scarlett McClaran and versatile athlete Courtney Bellamy.
Laek expects the Lady Falcons to contend in District 1-3A’s Upper Rivers Conference.
“We’ve definitely got a chance to be right there with Elizabethton,” Laek said. “We’re just going to have to show up and play every single night, play hard and box out, and not turn the ball over. Those are all the things that everybody preaches.”
Scrimmage time in the Nov. 8 jamboree produced mixed results.
“After the jamboree, I felt like we boxed out really well,” Laek said. “That has been a huge part of our practices – learning how to box out, making it so that we do it every single time. But then turnovers really got the best of us. So now, we’re switching our focus and working on that up until our first game.”
Laek is assisted by Cyndie Morelock, Nora Barton and Ashely Geisler.