MURFREESBORO – Tori Simmons has big plans for 2014.
The Siegel High senior volleyball standout wants more than a good statistical season or a third trip to the TSSAA Class AAA state tournament in four years.
No, the stakes have been raised for Simmons and the Lady Stars, which return a key core from the 2013 squad that finished third in the state.
“We’ve all played together since about the sixth grade,” said Simmons, a three-year starter at outside hitter. “We’re all really excited. We want to see if we can make a good run in the state tournament.
“We all have been together for a long time.”
Thus far, 11 days into the high school season, Siegel has shown it is a state title contender.
The Lady Stars knocked off Class AAA defending state champion Brentwood in five games a week ago. Siegel followed that up by winning the Collierville tournament without losing a game in pool play or during the single-elimination portion of the tournament.
But Simmons insists her team must remain hungry this season. The Lady Stars can’t rest on their past achievements despite returning four senior starters.
“We have to take it one game at a time,” Simmons said. “We have to think that if we’ve gotten better, everyone has gotten better like we have.
“We have to keep working so we can get back to where we were, and then get further.”
Simmons has raised her level of competition. A year ago the MTSU commitment was named the District 7-AAA MVP. She recorded a team-high 514 kills, 103 aces, 43 blocks and 532 digs while earning The Daily News Journal’s volleyball player of the year.
So far, she’s tallied 114 kills, 23 aces, eight blocks and 105 digs this season under first-year coach Shawn Robinson.
Robinson is the Lady Stars’ third coach in the past four years. He replaces Laura Pierce, who returned to her hometown in Colorado.
Despite the multiple coaching changes, Simmons said each coach has been good for the program. It’s given the team different perspectives.
“We’ve seen different coaching styles,” Simmons said. “I think that’s made us stronger as a team.
“He’s really organized and on top of things.”
Robinson also has challenged his seniors, especially Simmons.
“The seniors on this team have to be the motivators,” Robinson said. “The coach can only say so much. But if a player says something, it means more.
“I’ve challenged all the seniors to take the team over. It’s not my team. It’s their team.”
And Robinson knows how talented Simmons is on the court. But he wants even more from the future Lady Raider.
“I told Tori from Day 1, I don’t care who she’s playing for next year,” Robinson said. “My expectations is this, and I’m going to push you.
“She loves it. She’s worked hard. I’ve already seen how much she’s been a leader on the court.”
Contact Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Folow him on Twitter @Kreager.