Young Lady Trojans look to continue volleyball tradition
Getting to the state tournament has become a tradition for the Dyersburg High School volleyball team, but things might be a little tougher for the Lady Trojans as redistricting and graduation losses, which include a pair of multi-time all-state players, could be challenging road blocks for the black and gold this fall.
In addition to adding District 15AA’s Jackson North Side and Liberty Tech, Obion County Central – a school which has provided Dyersburg with plenty of rivalry moments in other sports – throws its hat onto the court for the first time as the Lady Rebels will field their first volleyball team.
“We have a new district of seven teams,” Dyersburg head coach Marilyn Liljenquist said. “We’ve got more games to fill in.”
With one of the new additions to the District 14-AA being the Lady Trojans sectional opponent from last season – Liberty – Liljenquist added some of her players will need to step up this season.
“It’s a new year,” Liljenquist said. “We’ve got girls that need to step up and play the leadership roles.
“We’ve been working hard all summer with conditioning, weight room and running.”
The Lady Trojan head coach added the addition of the three teams will not affect the team’s weekend schedules – which regularly see Dyersburg head into Middle Tennessee to play teams the Lady Trojans could see at the state level. The additional district contests could, though, affect Dyersburg’s slate during the week.
“Those are tournaments that are the weekend, so it won’t affect that,” Liljenquist explained. “What it will affect is being able to play more competitive teams with open dates that we had.”
With six teams to play in 14AA matches, it will take 12 dates to complete the schedule, as Liljenquist explains since the teams play each other twice – one at each high school.
“It kind of fills in where we would have been able to play teams a little further away and makes it where we stick more close to home,” Liljenquist said.
Another major factor the Lady Trojans will have to overcome in 2017 will be the losses to graduation of standouts Gracie Liljenquist (a three-time All-State honoree) and Tessa Liljenquist (a two-time All-Stater) as well as fellow 2016 seniors Taylor Hopper and Noley Baker.
“(Their absence) is definitely felt,” Liljenquist said. “There’s no doubt about it.
“But with new girls coming in and being able to step up, it gives them the opportunity to work hard and earn those positions that they’ve watched them play for years.”
Liljenquist added its a good opportunity for those players to continue their program and continue to be successful.
“But, there is no hiding the fact that we’re missing big hitters we’ve had for several years,” Liljenquist said. “I just look at it like it’s an opportunity for girls that may have been kind of holding back or in the shadows because those girls stood out so strongly – to step up and try to fill in those positions and get the opportunity to play.”
Leading the way for Dyersburg this season will be a trio of seniors.
Cassandra Swift returns to the court for the Lady Trojans this season for her fourth year playing under Liljenquist.
“She’s a great all-around volleyball player,” Liljenquist said. “So, she is definitely one of the leaders on the team and can do everything.
“I really count on her for a lot.”
Another senior returning to the fold this season is Emma Boatwright, who is also a four-year member of the program.
“She has an opportunity to step up as well,” the Lady Trojans head coach said. “She’s getting an opportunity to step up and play a lot.”
Joining the team for her first year with the Lady Trojans on the volleyball court is Faith Sherrow. Having already made a name for herself on a different court – basketball – Sherrow was unable to play due to injury in 2016.
“She is playing volleyball for us this year, which is really great,” Liljenquist said. “She’s an awesome athlete.
“She’s super positive and is a real go-getter. She is a great addition to our team.”
Joining them on the court with experience is one of the team’s setters, junior Shelby Hopper.
“She’s a great player, great athlete,” Liljenquist said. “Loves the sport and is going to play a key role for us, too.”
Below her is a large sophomore class and four freshman that will look to help the upperclassmen carry on the Dyersburg volleyball team’s winning tradition. These players include Rachel Finley, Kelcie Johnson and Carly Weeks, who move up from junior varsity from last season.
With Dyersburg having reached the Class AA State Tournament in each of the last eight seasons, Liljenquist said the main goal for the Lady Trojans would be to continue that level of performance in 2017.
“To just maintain that level of tradition of competitiveness that Dyersburg is known for,” Liljenquist said. “We may not have the power that we’ve had in the past, but we’re trying to move towards being smarter and getting to know our competition – being able to put the ball on the ground.
“Just looking forward to the start of the season and working hard.”
The Lady Trojans begin their 2017 season this weekend when they play in the Brentwood Blast-off in Nashville on Friday and Saturday. Dyersburg travels to Jackson on Monday to face Madison Academic before returning home on Tuesday as the Lady Trojans host Jackson North Side in their 14AA opener at 6 p.m.