Edwards, the 2013 Cherokee Tribune Volleyball Coach of the Year after leading his team to a 40-5 finish and a sweep of all the other county teams, said it took good players, a supportive administration and an involved student body. Not only that, but the Lady Chiefs got some help from opponents who graduated large senior classes in 2012, and a little luck in playoff matchups.
“It was a combination of everything,” Edwards said. “The girls are outstanding kids on and off the court. They bought into the hard work every day and didn’t get ahead of themselves as far as what we had to do every day. We had a lot of support from everyone around our team.”
As the success of the team grew, so did the number of students in attendance. Clad in black and gold — much like they would for a football game — students filled a section of the stands inside Sequoyah’s War Lodge. Their chants and cheers often drowned out the cries of opposing players on the court.
“It just kept snowballing,” Edwards said. “It was a perfect storm of a lot of things happening. Good teams have good players and a support system.”
For his part, Edwards said he learned to stay out his players’ way when they were doing well. It wasn’t often that he needed to give them a pep talk or refocus their efforts. During the Lady Chiefs’ streak of 30 straight match victories, they dropped just five sets.
“For the most part, they had drive,” Edwards said. “There weren’t a lot of times where I had to pick them up. That was a real blessing, as far as my part became just working on strategy and skills and not so much saying, ‘Hey, we need to try harder,’ because that was never the case for these girls. It was a great experience for me just being a part of a team like that.”
At the beginning of the season, Edwards spoke with the other coaches on his staff about the potential Sequoyah had. The Lady Chiefs had talent on the court and returned more depth than other teams they would face.
“We thought we had a pretty good chance to go far,” Edwards said. “We knew it would depend on matchups, and things like that, in the playoffs, but we knew we had a good group to put things together.”
As the season went on, the players quickly saw what roles need to be filled and stepped up.
“They all wanted it,” Edwards said. “It went from Logan (Page) and Kali (Jones) — the players that get all the accolades to the people that didn’t get to play a lot, but worked just as hard in practice as everyone else did. Everybody did what they had to do and everybody had an input on how far we went.”
The Lady Chiefs will graduate three players — Emily Ryan, Kelsey Goran and Jensyn Wells — from their roster, but should return all-state players Page and Jones. Kelley Hartman, an all-are player, is just a sophomore.
Add to that the hunger left by falling short in the state title match and Edwards is excited about the future at Sequoyah.
“We have 10 of our 13 people coming back,” Edwards said. “Although the seniors were small in number, we will miss their contributions and experience, but we have everyone else coming back. We are really excited and looking forward to what we can do. The biggest thing is the girls staying focused and getting better every day.”