MCARTHUR — Ever since Vinton County’s Sydney Smith stepped onto the volleyball court, it was clear there was something special to her.
The 5-foot-11 senior has led the Vikings in kills throughout her high school career, and thus far has complied 250 kills, 137 digs and 35 aces for the 19-1 Vikings.
They received a No. 2 seed in the Division II tournament as this is Smith and her fellow nine seniors’ last chance to potentially make a long tournament run and accomplish something never been done before.
But before the tournament begins, we caught up with the senior outside hitter to talk about her 1,000th career kill, leaving a legacy, winning TVC titles and much more.
Question: Coming into your senior year, what were some things you guys worked on as a team and how have you seen them help take to your game to another level?
Smith: Gearing up for our senior year, we focused a lot on bettering our rotation. Most times, Cam (Zinn) didn’t have the opportunity to hit. Incorporating Jordyn (Zinn) into our rotation has definitely made our it more powerful solely for the fact that we have Cameron as a hitter and a setter. Jordyn had absolutely no issue with being an incoming freshman on varsity. She came into open gyms and practices and looked like she had been playing varsity volleyball for a while so we knew that this was our best rotation by far. Plus the whole sister setting dynamic is great for the team.
Q: Going back to your sophomore year, you guys beat Alexander for the first time in 17 years. What did that win show you guys as a team, and how did it somewhat change the narrative of the program?
S: Coming into high school, we all had goals of putting numbers on those banners and we knew we would do just that. The program hadn’t been very successful in the past years, and we had the mindset of changing that opinion from the minute we stepped through those doors. After getting the kill to win the game at Alexander sophomore year, a feeling of relief had hit me. All of the hard work, and all of the time we had put solely into that game, we could finally say we had done it. Something a team hadn’t done within 17 years and to me, that’s when the whole community started to have their change of opinion on the program. We began seeing more faces in the crowd at our games and started to gain support from others outside of Vinton County. That game meant everything for our team and our community and pushed us to achieve more than just a TVC championship.
Q: Teams at times take on the personality of their coaches. What has been like playing for (Vinton County head coach) Ashley (Ervin) & (Vinton County assistant coach) Kevin (Gwynn) over the last four years?
S: It’s the absolute perfect balance. Growing up, I always looked at Ashley as a second mom. She is always the one you turn to when you have had a bad day at school and is the first one to ask you if you’re okay when she notices something is off at practices. I can speak for my whole team when I say that Ashley is one of the best coaches anyone could ever have. No matter what is happening around her, one thing you can count on is that she’s going to be there for her team. And that kind of love and dedication can’t ever be found in another coach. Kevin is the coach that makes the game fun. You know when it’s time to be serious and when it’s time to joke around. He’s so knowledgeable when it comes to the game, and I believe that bringing him into the program was the best decision that Ashley had ever made. We wouldn’t be where we are without either of them that’s for sure. Like I said, it’s the perfect balance.
Q: You were able to notch the 1,000th kill of your career a few games ago. Talk about that accomplishment and what that meant to you.
S: Receiving 1,000 kills this year was a goal I set for myself starting my freshman year. No one in program history had notched 1,000 kills and I knew that with my amazing team, I could be the one to do just that. Yes, achieving the milestone is a huge accomplishment, however I would have never gotten there if it wasn’t for my incredible passers and my unbelievable setter. It all starts with a pass. And as I feel as if my back row doesn’t get enough credit for all of the hard work they put in, I would not be the player that I am without them. So I can’t help but be grateful for them and Cam both.
Q: For the 10 seniors on this team, you guys (so far) have piled up a 78-16 overall record. What has been it been like being a part of the best senior class in VC volleyball history?
S: Being the best senior class in VC volleyball history has been nothing but a dream. Us 10 seniors have grown up together, all playing on the same teams and bettering ourselves for the high school level. We are all so close, and I believe that that dynamic is something you can’t find within any other team. In my eyes, that is why we are so successful. Yes, we are all crazy talented and are dual sport athletes, but without that dynamic, teams aren’t successful. We all have the same mindset and same goals, and I’m forever grateful for this team that I grew up with from the very beginning.
Q: Winning three straight outright TVC titles to your credit so far, how special of an accomplishment is that for you and the team?
S: Like I said, it’s a goal we set from the beginning. We knew what we needed to do to achieve those goals, and we have done just that. It is something that no other team in VC volleyball history can say they have done and leaving this program knowing that, is a feeling like no other.
Q: Up to this point, what has been your favorite volleyball memory and why?
S: My absolute favorite memory throughout my four years of playing on this team, was coming home from our win against River Valley after clinching the first outright TVC title and seeing our entire community lined up on the streets. All clapping, all cheering for my team. Gaining that support from my community will always be one of my favorite memories.
Q: You guys have bigger goals, which is winning the first district championship. What’s going to be key to making that run?
S: I believe that achieving our bigger goals would be to first start by not playing to the level of our competitors, but playing at the highest level possible. We have to play the game at a much faster pace if we want to put a district title on that banner. And with the amount of work and dedication my team has put in, we should be able to do that.