Lady Lions ready to take next step after strong finish in ’22

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

By John Henson

Contributing Writer

Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, including the program’s third trip to the 13th Region Tournament, the Pineville Lady Lions are anxiously anticipating taking the next step in 2023 with several key players returning.

Email newsletter signup

“I’m always excited when volleyball season rolls around, but this season just has me super excited. Our girls have such amazing chemistry and are so supportive of each other. They are each other’s biggest hype women, and the culture of our team is something I’m very proud of,” PIneville coach Samantha North said. “When you lose a group of seniors like we did it is easy to come into that next season with a rebuild mindset, but for us it’s really been more of a reload with how hard our younger girls have worked this summer. We have incredible athletes, and there is nothing stopping them from achieving every single thing they set their minds toward.”

The 11-16 Lady Lions did lose some key players, including McKenzie Widener and her school record 243 kills. Mallory Caldwell, the school’s all-time assists leader with 211, also graduated, along with Kailey Napier and her 177 digs last year (a single-season record) and Peyton Slone.

Ava Arnett, a junior who recorded 191 kills and 93 blocks last season, returns, along with juniors Addison Slone and Kamryn Biliter. Slone had 179 kills, 155 digs and 88 service aces last season, while Biliter added 259 assists and 176 digs. Brooklyn Harris, a sophomore who led the team with 107 service aces, also returns.

“One thing I can tell right away with this group is that practice is going to be as competitive as games. The line between varsity and JV is pretty razor thin. If you came to watch practice, I don’t know if you could pick out the top six players just from drills and skills. That has not been the case for us before. I think it’s going to just help everyone get better,” added assistant coach Jon North. “We don’t have the luxury at one of the smallest schools in the 13th to just go and get more production after you lose three program-changing athletes. Our current bunch knows the shoes they have to fill. I hope that translates out on the court.”

Other possible starters include seniors Nadine Johnson and Laura Mills, junior Kaylee Sturgill, sophomores Makayla Terrell and Kadence McQueen and eighth grader Brynlee Sizemore.

The Lady Lions open their season Aug. 14 at Jackson County.


Pineville schedule

Aug. 14 — at Jackson County

Aug. 15 — Harlan

Aug. 17 — Red Bird

Aug. 21 — at Leslie County

Aug. 22 — at Thomas Walker (Ewing, VA)

Aug. 24 — at Barbourville

Aug. 28 — Lynn Camp

Aug. 29 — Knox Central

Aug. 31 — Clay County

Sept. 5 — Claiborne (New Tazewell, TN)

Sept. 7 — at Harlan

Sept. 9 — Middlesboro, 13th Region All “A” Classic

Sept. 11 — at Harlan County

Sept. 12 — at Knox Central

Sept. 14 — Middlesboro

Sept. 16 — at Model

Sept. 18 — Thomas Walker (Ewing, VA)

Sept. 19 — Barbourville

Sept. 23 — Model

Sept. 25 — at Claiborne (New Tazewell, TN)

Sept. 26 — at Lynn Camp

Sept. 28 — Harlan County

Oct. 9 — Jackson County

Oct 10 — at Red Bird

Oct 12 — Middlesboro

From left, front row: Emma Cupp, Alyssa Obenshain, Sophia Scott, Audrey Yates and Brylee Siler; second row: Maggie Goodin, Braelyn Fain, Pyper Millard, Alana Owens, Chloe Whitehead and Shauna Elliott; third row: Brooke Harris, Makayla Terrell, McKenzie Caldwell, MaKayla Caldwell, Brynlee Sizemore, Kaylee Sturgill and Maja Brown; back row: Addison Slone, Isabella Adams, Kadence McQueen, Ava Arnett, Kamryn Biliter, McKenna Turner, Nadine Johnson and Laura Mills; not pictured: Paceleigh Sams and Khloe Saylor.