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Preseason blues aside, Lady Ad volleyball at state

How far did the Farragut High School varsity volleyball team come from preseason expectations to a Class AAA state tournament berth earned last Thursday?

“I was hoping, thinking we’d be lucky if we ended with a five-hundred [break-even] season,” said Kelsey Benorden, junior outside hitter and District 4-AAA and Region 2-AAA Most Valuable Player, after leading her Lady Admirals past Morristown East in straight games during the Sectional match Oct. 20, in FHS’s Lynn E. Sexton Gymnasium.

“I wouldn’t have imagined [this], preseason was a little frustrating, we didn’t do too good. ... It’s overwhelming.”

Despite returning only Benorden and senior setter Jenny Loveday among its 2004 starters, Farragut moves on to Murfreesboro with a 46-7 record and played its state tourney openers Wednesday, Oct. 26, versus Red Bank and Germantown in pool play.

Farragut plays at 9 a.m. CST, today, Thursday, Oct. 27, versus Brentwood at Middle Tennessee State University among an eight-team field. The state tourney runs through Friday.

As for coming so far since pre-season struggles, “Definitely not, I’m so surprised and I’m so proud of us performing together because in the preseason I thought there was no chance,” said Loveday, the team’s only senior. “It’s a dream come true. It’s amazing.”

In a season that includes a Region 2-AAA tournament title — beating Karns and Maryville Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Clinton — on top of District 4-AAA regular season and tourney title (current 48-game district winning steak), the Lady Ads got a pre-season wake-up call.

“I guess if we point to one moment, I guess I need to thank Mike Jones, the coach over at [Knoxville] Catholic,” FHS head coach David Moore said about a four-game beating his Lady Ads took late in pre-season. “Kelsey’s dad [Larry] said she went home crying after that day just because of the way things were.”

Farragut came back to beat the Irish at KCHS en route to winning the KIL tournament. “I think that showed we’d grown up a little bit,” Moore said. A few days later the Lady Ads turned around and beat Catholic during the annual FHS Early Bird tournament.

“That’s when I think the kids realized, ‘we can do this, we’ve gotten over that initial hurdle,’” Moore added. “When the lights came on to start the season, this team competed.”

As for the Sectionals, “I thought Eden Watts played very well for us, especially early,” Moore said about his other key outside hitter. “She kinda got us going. ... she was taking some good swings,” During a span where Benorden had 10 straight service points winners, “[Eden] was the one getting a lot of those kills during that stretch. I thought that was big.”

Watts, an All-District 4-AAA honoree along with Benorden and Loveday, said she’s grateful to her teammates.

“It’s been a great experience with these girls, these girls are great to hang out with.” Transferring from Cumberland County to FHS prior to last season, “they all have helped me adjust so well,” Watts added.

On top of his starters, Moore labeled reserve junior Kaylee Dueber “my security blanket if somebody goes down or gets hurt, I know I can plug her into a lot of spots.”

Benorden said that in addition to herself and Loveday, several younger and previously inexperienced players stepped it up this season.

“They’ve come a long way, especially on the back row, Kimbra [Hoehn], Diana [Deer] and Amber [Fisher],” the junior said. “Our passing in pre-season was suffering, but they stepped up and they got it done, their passing, it helped us tremendously.”

Against Morristown East, Farragut’s 25-22, 25-16, 25-11 victory was led by Benorden’s 16 kills, 13 service points and five aces. Loveday contributed 15 assists and 10 points.


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