Strong Lady Cats reloaded for new volleyball season

Mac McLeod/OCN photo

Members of the 2022 Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats Volleyball Team are, front row from left, Laci Lancaster, Tatum Pendergrass, Calla Pierce, second row, Mylee Beaty, Kalee Beasley, Cora Copeland, Chloe Jenkins, Myla Dailey, Joci Garrett, Maddie Hall, Allison Connor, third row, Laney Kilgore, Kenley Webb, Lainey Dishman, Sydney Moffitt, Mallie Carwile, Alora Budzelik, Haleigh Connor, Kyra Breeding, back row, Aleah Melton, Abbie Ray, Maddie Gaw, Hailee Mosley, Matea Dailey, Brylee Johnson, and, not pictured, Leah Cross.

By Mac McLeod,

OCN Sports

There’s a slight problem at the Livingston Academy volleyball program – for whatever reason, the team is having a hard time expanding its schedule.

“I can’t find anyone who wants to play us,” said head coach Christie Jenkins. “I don’t know if we’re that good or if other teams are not good enough. I always wanted to play teams as good or better than we were just to give us a test to see what we needed.”

Currently, Livingston has 15 play dates that include two out-of-town tournaments along with 8 district contests and 3 non-district games.

One of the reasons for the team having a little difficulty getting non-district games is the fact the Lady Wildcats are good. In recent years, the team has won district and regional titles, gone to the state tournament two years ago, and last year reached the regionals in Chattanooga. Despite some critical losses to graduation from last year’s squad, LA is again expected to be strong.

“We’ve got six players back from last year that saw a lot of playing time,” coach Jenkins pointed out. “We lost some really good players from last year like Allie Qualls, Keaton Webb, and several others, but we have a strong group returning, and I’ve got several freshmen that are really going to help us out.”

Leading the Livingston attack, offensively and defensively, is senior Aleah Melton. Melton has been a factor from her freshman year and now is one of, if not the, district’s premiere players.

“Aleah is one of those players that comes along and you know from the start they are going to be a big factor in your program,” coach Jenkins continued. “She will face a lot of pressure this season as every team we play knows who she is and what she can do. She can handle it.”

Joining Melton with some experience will be Matea Dailey, Kenley Webb, Lainey Dishman, Sydney Moffitt, Mallie Carwile, and Maddie Gaw. Out of this group, Moffitt has the most experience and will replace Qualls as the team’s Libero.

“Sydney has big shoes to fill,” the coach added. “Allie (Qualls) was one of the best Libero I’ve ever had, but Sydney will fill the slot very well.”

Newcomers this year will include Cora Copeland, Chloe Jenkins, Myla Dailey, and Jaci Garrett.

Earlier this summer, the team participated in a camp in Chattanooga and did well, which leads the coach to have high hopes.

“I love playing in Chattanooga,” she explained, “because those teams down there are always good and you can get a real good read on what your team needs to work on. Also, if you make the regional tournament, they are the teams you will be facing in hopes of going to the sub-state and the state tournament.”

Jenkins is entering her 16th year as head coach of the team and has no clue what her record is.

“I never kept up with our record because I never wanted this to be about a record or me,” she explained. “I want the players to enjoy playing and play to the very best of their ability. I figure the rest will work itself out.”

This year’s district includes Cumberland County, Upperman, Macon County, Stone Memorial, and Livingston, with the regional tournament now scheduled for early October at Cumberland County in Crossville.