Kandis Schram speaks highly of Lindsy Little.
“Lindsy is a remarkable, remarkable young woman,” the Maryville College volleyball coach said.
To get a sense of just how remarkable, get a load of these numbers.
Little, a senior middle blocker, passed the 1,000 kills total for a career recently. It’s a rare achievement for any volleyball player. Doing that and also totaling better than 1,000 digs, though, is pretty much unheard of. It’s only happened twice in Schram’s 24 seasons as coach.
Little’s farewell tour is a big reason why the Lady Scots (19-5) are winning in a big way this fall, with men’s and women’s soccer also celebrating homecoming this weekend in the midst of banner seasons as well.
The Scots (8-1-3) are delivering one of Pepe Fernandez’ finest seasons as coach. A strong team from a year ago grew only stronger with the arrival of Division I transfer Tom Webster this season. The former Bearden High School and East Tennessee State University Buccaneer star paces Maryville with six goals on the season.
“I think he’s been great for our team and a great fit for our team,” Fernandez said. “He adds some real speed up top, something we lacked last year, and he’s a big finisher. The big-time moneymakers score goals.”
Led by senior Ben Lawson, named Maryville’s his sophomore season two years ago, the Scots are a balanced and very deep team. Maryville has yet to lose to an in-class, Division III opponent this season.
The Lady Scots (8-2-1), whose Great South Athletic Conference win streak is “around a hundred now,” Fernandez said, are taking much the same approach. Junior Jessica Peterson, on pace to pretty much smash all the school’s scoring marks in a year’s time, leads with nine goals. Six others have at least three. It’s stopping goals, though, where Maryville is really shining this season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Desiree Simmons has conceded only five goals in 984 minutes of soccer this fall. At a 0.46 goals against average, that’s less than half a goal allowed per match.
The Lady Scots haven’t yielded a goal in more than a month, a run encompassing nine games. Maryville’s defense has proven so dominant at times Simmons has been known to moonwalk in front of her goal to stay sharp.
“She’s doing some other things (this year),” Lady Scots assistant coach Jon Baker said. “I’m not sure she’s moonwalking.”
The super-quick Peterson appears to be walking on air at times. The Maryville midfielder’s debut season two years ago was a modest one, finished with 11 goals in an injury-shortened campaign. As a sophomore the following year, Peterson absolutely went off, firing a Maryville single-season record 34 goals by opposing goalkeepers, bringing her within striking distance of Jennifer Windrow’s Lady Scots record of 70.
With nine goals so far in 2009, Peterson ranks third all-time at Maryville, with only Windrow and former teammate Sarah Harmon (61 goals) still out there.
“Last year, she had two seniors lighting it up next to her,” Fernandez said. “This year, she’s had double teams and defenses designed to stop her.”
It’s Little’s final season, though, that’s quickly becoming one for the books. The Maryville High School product paces the Lady Scots with team-bests of 198 kills and 27 blocks, all while Maryville has navigated one of the toughest schedules in the program’s history.
Maryville has met a pair of 2008 Final Four teams already this season. You have to play the best to be the best, Schram said, citing a 3-1 loss to defending national champion Emory University in mid September as a match to remember. Maryville took a game off the champs before falling, 25-13, 18-25, 25-22, 25-16.
“Going to Atlanta was big for us because we played them so close,” Schram said. “Emory was very, very good. We all need a measuring stick. That’s what that weekend did for us.”
Schram put Maryville up against such a schedule partly because of the talent on hand. Sophomore Kara Strickland has punched through 144 kills on the year. Fellow sophomore Kristin Findley, who missed a couple of weeks earlier this season due to injury, has rifled home 133. Freshman Hannah Akers is over 100, with sophomore Katherine Nadler and senior Jenna Thorp closing in.
“When you have that much on the outside, it just opens it up for Lindsy,” Schram said. “This is one of the fun years. I have six of them.”
Setter Teri Lind is feeding the ammo to all those hitters, on pace for a season of better than 500 assists.
Defensively, Maryville may never have been better, with five players eclipsing the century mark in digs. Sophomore Kayla Anderson, Nadler and Little are in the 200 range. It’s the recipe for a big year, with Little the catalyst that makes it all go.
“She’s playing with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Schram said, “and she’s got to be on for them every game.”
Maryville will play host to the Great South tournament Nov. 6-7. With the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament restored for the league champion, it’s sure to produce some fireworks.