Lady Buffs feature solid base of experience, talent

By Matt Hill

   With the Milligan College volleyball program sporting six seniors and nine returning players from a team that went 26-16 a year ago, first-year head coach Kim Hyatt is expecting a lot from this squad.
   "The expectations for me are high," Hyatt said. "I think the difference in this time period is that I've set higher expectations on them as far as their grades and their performance on the court."
   Hyatt, a native of Carter County, comes to Milligan after teaching at Happy Valley and Dobyns-Bennett High Schools. Hyatt has spent the last few years as the head coach of the D-B volleyball team, where her squads had plenty of success.
   Hyatt knows there are some differences between coaching at the high school and collegiate levels, but likes what she sees so far.
   "As far as the talent goes, it's just a higher level of talent ability," Hyatt said. "You don't have to work as much on basics. You can work a little bit more on higher level. You still have to cover the basics and things like that, but you don't have to spend as much time on it. The attitudes are good. They were good at D-B too, but they're excited about the year I think.
   "They're working very hard, and that's the thing that's the same but yet different. The level of work ethic is a little bit stronger, because they know that this is one of the reasons that they're here. Besides to get an education, they're here to play volleyball."
   Hyatt's six seniors should be major factors this season. Outside hitter Wendy Weaver, setter Heather Lanning, middle hitter Melanie Reed, outside hitter Christianne Figueira, middle hitter Christina Medlin and defensive specialist Melody Black have come back for their final year on the Milligan campus.
   "You can see they're well-rounded in all aspects of the game," Hyatt said.
   Several of the freshmen that Hyatt brought in have a Tri-Cities flavor to them. Dobyns-Bennett's Katie Mullins, Volunteer's Joy Dobbs and Daniel Boone's Amber Caldwell were all standouts in local volleyball circles.
   Throw in former Dobyns-Bennett standout Lindsey Wetherholt, a transfer from Lincoln Memorial University, and all of a sudden the Lady Buffs are loaded with local talent.
   Hyatt realizes the local volleyball scene is very strong, and she wants a lot of area players on her roster.
   "I just felt like we needed more local talent," Hyatt said. "These two conferences are two of the top conferences in Tennessee. I just want to look at more local talent.
   "When I came during the interview process I told them that was one of the things that I wanted to look at, to bring in more local talent. It helps the community support. King College, which is our competitor, recruits everything locally. That doesn't mean we won't go outside the area to recruit, but we did want to get more local people on our team. And they've done a great job."
   Sophomore setter Sarah Beair will be one of the starters. Junior Theresa Butler, sophomore Melissa Mills and freshmen Karissa Schrage and Kari Meredith should also contribute to the squad.
   Hyatt says that defense should be one the strong points of this Milligan team.
   "We're working hard on defense," Hyatt said. "We want to be a more defensive team. The offense is coming on strong. But we've worked mainly for the last two weeks on defense. A lot of people can put the ball down, but can you pick it up and apply that to them the same way. I think that's a stronger suit of ours."
   Overall, Hyatt is expecting good things out of her team.
   "We'll be competitive for sure," Hyatt said.
   *Union College from Barbourville, Ky. has now joined the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The Lady Buffs open up with Union at home on August 29 at 6:30 p.m.