Cats take regular season championship, 8-0

Lilly Whited/OCN photo

Rhea Lynn Connor, Leigha Nave, Suzanna Hayes, Hannah Hammons, and Summer Spears were honored at Senior Night on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

By Mac McLeod,

OCN Sports

In the dictionary, a team is described as “a number of persons associated in some joint action”.

That definition explains what a “team”, is, but doesn’t come close to defining just what the desire of a team really is. A team is two or more players working together for one common goal – to win.

At least that’s what Livingston Academy volleyball coach Christie Jenkins thinks it is, and this year her Lady Wildcats have fulfilled that definition almost perfectly.

“I knew this team was going to be special even before the season started,” the coach started out. “Last year it finished second in the district before losing in the regionals, but I saw a team desire in it.

“These players work hard for each other, making sure each other gives their best and they won’t let us get down. It’s a competitive group that hustles and is very, very positive. They are all hard workers and it has shown this season.”

Last week, the regular season ended with Livingston Academy atop District 8-AA with a perfect 8-0 district mark and a fine 16-2 overall record.

“To say the least, I was a happy camper,” Jenkins continued, “but wasn’t surprised. If you are around this group for 10 minutes, you will know right away they are winners in more than one way.”

Livingston will play today, Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 5 p.m., in district tournament action at Smith County and a win will put them in the championship game with probably Stone Memorial.

During the regular season, Stone posted a 6-2 district mark to finish second to LA, and the two losses were at the hands of the Lady Wildcats.

Jenkins added that Stone is a good team.

“As the record shows, they finished second with their only losses to us,” she said. “If we both get to the championship game, it should be a very good one.”

One of Livingston’s strong points is that most of the players on the starting 8 also play on the LA girls softball team, which is also very competitive.

“I’m sure that helps,” Jenkins continued. “Softball last year was good and these players were also players on that team, so they know each other so well and are comfortable working with each other, good or bad. They have the best attitude you could ask for and their common goal is to win. “

The other good news is there are only four seniors on the eight starting players. Actually, only six players are on the floor at any one time, but the other two move in and out regularly.

Hannah Hammons, Summer Spears, Leigha Nave, and Suzanna Hayes are the four upperclassmen with Jordan Key the only junior. Allie Qualls and Keaton Webb are sophomores, and Aleah Melton is the lone freshman.

More good news is that Summer Spears and Hammons have started since they were freshmen while Key has been a starter for two years as has Qualls.

“We have some very strong experience on this team as you can see,” Jenkins continued, “and Melton is such an athlete that you can’t tell she hasn’t been starting for a couple years. With this experience, we are not only strong now, but these players are more than willing to help the others who aren’t playing right now, but will in the next couple years.”

If there is a problem this year, it’s not with the players but with any possibility of a “home court” advantage. Back in the winter, the gym floor at Livingston academy suffered severe water damage and a section of it has had to be removed and replaced. At this printing, most of the floor has been replaced but the entire floor will have to be sanded, leveled, and sealed. It could well run into the late tournament season.

“Right now, I don’t know what we are going to do,” Jenkins pointed out. “We’ve played all our home games at First Baptist Church, and those people have been just wonderful to us. Don’t know what we would have done without them, but after this week, they are going to have to move back in and start planning some of their Christmas events.

“If that happens and we move into the Sub-State round and win, then we will host a home game and we’ll have to find a place to play it. That’s a couple weeks out, but from the looks of things in the gym, it won’t be ready by then.”

Right now, that’s not the biggest issue and one that Jenkins acknowledges they will “have to face when we get there”. The big thing this week is winning or finish no worse than second in the district and regional tournaments.

“One thing we really want to work on is getting bigger crowds at our home game,” the coach concluded. “We’re a winning part of the sports program at Livingston Academy and it would thrill our players to death to look up and see a full house at their games. We’ll try to keep winning and hope the fans will become heavy supporters. “