The Lady Chiefs are in the midst of tryouts, with 33 girls fighting for a spot on the varsity roster. John Edwards, who is entering his fifth year as the team’s coach, expects the varsity roster contain somewhere between 11 and 13 players. He likes to keep the number close to a dozen in order to make it easier for the players to practice against one another, with six players to a side.
Among those returning from last year are seniors Logan Page, Kayla Morris, Kate Mann, Ashlyn Brandon, Lane Lauletta, and Kyli Schmitt. Those six will make up roughly half of the roster.
“Most of the seniors I have had for three years,” Edwards said. “Logan has been there for four years on varsity.”
Juniors Kelley Hartman, Lauren Hartman and Kali Jones are all expected to be back on the roster, along with a handful of others who Edwards has not determined.
Page, who recently committed to play at Troy University, will resume her role as Sequoyah’s setter, though she’s considered just as valuable as a middle hitter. The Hartman twins will remain in the middle, while Jones, Schmitt and Mann will play on the outside. Lauletta is a right-side hitter, and Brandon is the team’s other setter.
“I think Kyli Schmitt is going to have a bigger year than she did last year,” Edwards said. “She has improved a lot, as have the other seniors. Kayla Morris has gotten better. Ashlyn Brandon has improved so much. She is trying to push people to get on the court.”
Mann was another key player on last year’s squad, but she’s working her way back from an injury. She hurt her shoulder in the state finals and underwent surgery after the season, but Edwards said Mann “is pretty close to her old form.”
As Sequoyah sets its aim on playing for a state title again, it has a few obstacles to overcome, though it did receive at least one gift in the offseason.
The team graduated three seniors — Jensyn Wells, Kelsey Goran and Emily Ryan — all of whom contributed not only in matches, but as leaders.
Realignment also changed Area 7AAAAA a bit. One of the most challenging opponents, Pope, moved up to Class AAAAAA. The Lady Greyhounds were a perennial contender, winning three consecutive state titles from 2009-11.
That isn’t to say the new Area 7AAAAA will be weak. In addition to Sequoyah, returning playoff teams Creekview and North Springs should also be solid. River Ridge, which reached the Class AAAA state semifinals a year ago, has moved into the area, as have Woodland-Bartow, North Atlanta and Rome. Cambridge, which was young last year, should be much-improved.
Still, Sequoyah knows the target is on its back.
“Any time you have a successful season, the next year, people are going to be more motivated than normal to play you,” Edwards said. “But you can’t think too much about that or you won’t be focused. You just have to keep thinking about getting better. We have a lot to improve and we need to focus on that instead of what people are saying about us.
“We just have to make sure we are focused and ready to play no matter who we are playing.”
The earliest date to play volleyball matches is Monday, but Sequoyah won’t be starting that soon. The Lady Chiefs will continue to practice until Aug. 15, when they begin the two-day Sequoyah Classic, a 32-team event that’s become a kickoff for many of the county’s programs.