Pieces still coming together for Cyclone volleyball team

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   After losing four starters from last year's team, Elizabethton High School head volleyball coach Leslee Bradley isn't quite sure what to make of the 2002 squad.
   "I'm not sure yet," Bradley said when asked about what she expects from this year's team. "We have definitely shown some strong points, and I think we're moving in the right direction. But I lost a lot of starters last year."
   Sheri Aubrey, Rachel Pierce, Stefanie Cline and Beth Holtsclaw have all moved on from a team that only won five games, but they made steady improvement in their four years at EHS.
   There will be a lot of new faces in the lineup, and Bradley is hoping they will show the same winning attitude those four young ladies displayed last season.
   "Right now they're not as vocal about things," Bradley said. "They're still trying to figure out where the pieces fit, and how to work with the teammates that are on the court with them. But they've got a lot of heart and desire, and I think that's going to come out once they get comfortable."
   Bradley is expecting big things out of third-year starter Michelle Collins. Bradley likes the attitude of the senior.
   "She has the most desire of any player that I have on the team," Bradley said. "I hope that's going to be contagious. She has become a strong leader. She really is encouraging to the younger players, and is helping to instruct them on the right way to get things done. She's got a really good attitude. And she's such a tough worker that I know that's going to rub off as well."
   The other returning starter is senior Holly Pearson. She's an outside hitter that brings a lot of experience to the Lady Cyclone squad.
   "Holly is a very consistent player," Bradley said. "She always has been. We know that when the ball goes to Holly, it's going to end up where we expect it to be. I hope that this year she can be one of our strongest hitters. She's really got a good arm. She's got a good swing."
   There are three other seniors on the squad, and one of those is Casey Kyte. Kyte will be a setter for Coach Bradley.
   "A lot of what we do is going to depend on her," Bradley said. "She's still in the learning process, because she hasn't been on the court very much in the varsity level. We're bringing her along, and as quick as she can improve, we are going to be a good team."
   Megan Street will also be counted on for senior leadership. She's relatively new to the sport, but Bradley hopes she will come around this season.
   "This is just her second year playing any kind of organized volleyball," Bradley said. "She's still learning a lot of the basics, but she's going to be important to this team because of her attitude. She really knows how to keep everybody up, and is a good encourager."
   Lauran Marlow wraps up Bradley's senior class. Bradley isn't quite sure where to play her yet, but likes the way she works.
   "Lauran is probably the one senior where I don't know where she belongs yet," Bradley said. "She has worked really hard, and deserves to be on the court. We're working on finding her spot right now."
   Emilee Berry saw a lot of playing time last year as a sophomore, and she will see even more action this season.
   Bradley hopes that the success that players like Brandi Forbes and Allison Parlier have had in other sports will spill over onto the volleyball court.
   Forbes played on the highly successful EHS girls basketball team last season, while Parlier played a key role in the Lady Cyclone tennis team getting to the state tournament.
   "That's definitely going to help the program, that we have some players on this team this year who have won at other sports," Bradley said. "They know what it takes to be a winner."
   Junior Trish McNeely will also be expected to contribute this season.
   The Lady Cyclone volleyball program has only been around for a few years, and it has to compete in the fall with soccer and cross-country.
   Bradley hopes more kids will start playing volleyball in the next few years, and she wants that to start at the junior high level.
   "We have no feeder program," Bradley said. "That's the thing that I keep bemoaning. Some of the other schools don't as well. Volunteer gets some first-time players, but Johnson County has a feeder program and both of the Sullivan County schools have girls who have come into the program that have already played. But Coach (Larry) Alderson and I have already discussed that, and I think in the future that you're going to see that. It's a sport that we've worked at, and we're going to continue to work at, and it will grow in Elizabethton."
   The Lady Cyclones open up on Aug. 19 against Morristown West and Cherokee at Morristown West. EHS opens up Watauga Conference play on Aug. 27 against Johnson County at Roan Creek Elementary School.