Here comes the boom!

MC takes potent attack into conference tourney

The Maryville College women’s volleyball team enters this weekend’s Great South Athletic Conference Tournament at Boydson Baird Gymnasium with six players — Katherine Nadler, Kristin Findley, Hannah Akers, Jenna Thorpe, Kara Strickland and Lindsy Little, left to right — with 100 or more kills on the season.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

The Maryville College women’s volleyball team enters this weekend’s Great South Athletic Conference Tournament at Boydson Baird Gymnasium with six players — Katherine Nadler, Kristin Findley, Hannah Akers, Jenna Thorpe, Kara Strickland and Lindsy Little, left to right — with 100 or more kills on the season.

After a turkey buzzard through the windshield, the Maryville College women’s volleyball team isn’t likely to be rattled by much the rest of the season.

The Lady Scots play host to the Great South Athletic Conference tournament Friday and Saturday at Boydson Baird Gymnasium. It’s part of a big Maryville sports weekend that will see the men’s and women’s soccer teams serving as hosts for their respective Great South tournaments as well.

A rematch with fierce conference rival Piedmont looms likely for Maryville volleyball (27-5, 7-0 Great South) on Saturday. The Lady Lions always play Maryville tough, but, after this weekend’s trip to Danville, Ky., the Lady Scots can be forgiven for not getting too worked up about it.

En route to a big weekend of matches at Thomas More College, the Maryville team bus was struck by a turkey buzzard on Interstate 75 about 30 minutes from the school. The bird shattered the right section of the windshield, coming to rest at Maryville coach Kandis Schram’s feet.

After removing the still-live bird from the bus, the Lady Scots continued on, with assistant coach Julie Patrick holding a piece of plastic over the windshield so the team could get to the gym.

“While we were in playing, they came up and changed the glass, and we got home fine,” Schram said.

The weekend of matches went Maryville’s way as well, with the Lady Scots collecting a pair of valuable South-Region wins. After knocking off Transylvania, 3-1, in the opener on Friday, Maryville rolled to a pair of 3-2 wins over host Thomas More and Centre on Saturday.

It was a tough closing stretch with the conference tournament looming, which is exactly what Schram wanted.

“We scheduled it to get us ready for the conference tournament,” she said. “We wanted it to be tough competition, as tough, or tougher, as we’d see the next weekend. Each school we felt matched up well with our conference.”

Few opponents have been able to match Maryville this season when it comes to versatility at the firing line. Senior Lindsy Little is enjoying a farewell tour for the ages, pacing the Lady Scots with 281 kills. Earlier this season, the 5-foot-10 middle hitter became the first player in school history to eclipse 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs for a career.

“She’s playing incredible right now,” Schram said. “She’s making the most of it.”

It’s more than just Little, though.

Schram’s bomb squad has four additional players - sophomores Kristin Findley (203) and Kara Strickland (193), freshman Hannah Akers (137) and sophomore Katherine Nadler (132) - with better than 100 kills on the season. A fifth, senior Jenna Thorpe, is at 99.

“We’ve had enough weapons to where we could say, ‘You want to put two on (Little), fine,’” Schram said.

The winner this weekend gets the conference’s automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA tournament, with the national tournament bracket scheduled to be released on Monday. It’s one of the reason’s the matches in Kentucky were so big. There’s no better way to impress the selection committee for a good seeding than with a pair of big, in-region wins on the road.

Maryville’s front-line gunners have had a lot to say in bringing the Lady Scots to this point. Equally important, Schram said, has been the work of setters Teri Lind, 545 sets, and Kayla Conley, 389. Without them, all those hitters at the net mean little.

“Our two setters have been huge for us,” Schram said. “They’ve accepted the role we’ve laid out for them really well.”

Each of the wins at Thomas More were hard-earned, with Maryville besting the host Saints, 25-21, 25-16, 21-25, 24-26, 15-13, following up with Centre only minutes later.

“Centre came out with all guns blazing,” Schram said.

Maryville had enough answering firepower to prevail, avenging a loss to the Lady Colonels earlier this season, 22-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-16, 15-11.

“We knew the potential was there (for a big year),” Schram said, “but we didn’t know about the chemistry. Would they mature fast enough?”

After one of the most successful and unusual road trips to close the regular season any team anywhere will ever experience, it’s starting to look like not much of anything can slow down these Lady Scots.

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