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Junior Varsity Volleyball: Front (L-R): McKinley Moseley, Jacky Reyes, Veronica Garcia, Kassie Vinson Back (L-R): Lindsay Gearhardt, Angeline Raffene, Cali Smolarsky, Elizabeth Houston, Kristen Grimms, Grace Brassard, April Moss, Carolyn McKim, Kyle McKimThe Highlands varsity volleyball team is coming off a great season last year, where they were able to get to the third round of the state playoffs before losing to the eventual staterunner up Rosman Tigers. It was the deepest run of any previous Highlands volleyball team.

Now the Lady Highlanders are trying to rebuild after losing many seniors from that dynamic team a year ago. “It’s been a learning process for our team. We are very young and we are having to play a lot of freshmen, so that inexperience is definitely a factor,” said eight year head coach Kyle McKim. “But we are improving and they are still fighting, but it’s not something we are used to. We are losing to teams that we have not been beaten by in a very long time, but we just have to keep getting better and keep fighting,” he said.

Although the Lady Highlanders lack superior size and experience, they still pose a serious threat to conference opponents. “We are still competitive in conference and we hope to compete for a conference championship later this season,” said McKim. The Lady Highlanders defeated conference rival Nantahala earlier this season, but dropped two close games to Hiwassee Dam and one to Blue Ridge.

“We did show some immaturity during several conference games this season. We made a lot of unforced errors that gave our opponents easy points,” said McKim. “If we can continue to keep working on our skills and sharpen our fundamentals, we can definitely beat some conference teams the second time around.”

The Lady Highlanders are led by three seniors, Julian Buras, Sayne Feria, and Jenny Coram. According to their head coach, the three captains lead by example. “I know it has been tough for them so far this season, because they are so used to competing at the highest level,” said McKim. “But they have kept their focus and continue to work hard, and I think our other players benefit greatly from that. They know what it takes to win, because they have been there before. So we always have a chance to compete when they are on the floor,” he said.

Varsity Volleyball: Front (L-R): Julian Buras, Jenny Coram, Sayne Feria, Cara Hedden Back (L-R): Lindsay Gearhardt, Kristen Grimms, Desiray Schmitt, Emily Shuler, Ellie Cate Beavers, Cali Smolarsky, April Moss, Carolyn McKim, Kyle McKimThe team is not equipped with great size, so they rely heavily on backcourt offense and tipping to garner points. Also, the girls are trying to specialize their defensive game to offset their inadequate height at the net. “We have to get better at creating more offense away from the net,” said McKIm. “We are getting better each and every game, and our girls have made great progress so far. But because we are so small, it is going to take a sharper and more creative offensive scheme to really reach our full potential this year.”

The team is set for round two of conference play, as the Lady Highlanders will take on Blue Ridge and Nantahala the first week of October. The conference tournament is scheduled to begin October 17. “We can surprise some teams if we can continue to work hard,” said McKim. “I think we can compete for a conference championship and hopefully gain some momentum going into the state playoffs.”


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