After starting with one small group of girls just six years ago, Dalton Middle School now boasts a volleyball program of three full teams that are highly competitive throughout the region.
Christa Mathis, a 6th grade science teacher who began teaching at DMS in 2012 said she suggested the program because she realized the school had a void in its sports listings. “The program actually started in the fall of 2014. We wanted to provide our students with the same sports opportunities that surrounding districts were offering.”
Though Mathis is no longer coaching volleyball, DMS has added head varsity coach Jennifer Quinn, junior varsity coaches Ashley Chumley and Keri Forest, and 6th grade coach Kim Swiney. Quinn, who also coaches the area C4 travel teams, said, “This is only my second year with this varsity team but their willingness to be coachable and to really learn the game of volleyball in such a short amount of time is astounding.” Quinn’s current varsity team just finished their season with a 25-2 record, with jv and 6th grade finishing close behind.
8th grade varsity player Grace Ridley added, “We’ve done well because our group has just meshed, and our bond is strong.” Her mother, Holly Ridley, said that the program is definitely more than just providing strong skills in the sport. “Not only has Coach Quinn provided the girls with excellent coaching in volleyball, but as a parent I am thankful our girls have had a strong woman who is intelligent, hard-working, and unapologetic about being the best you can be as a role model. It’s hard to find women today you want your little girl to look up to.”
Sixth grade coach Kim Swiney stated, “Over the course of the season, we quickly developed team chemistry which translated to better performance on the court.” Swiney, who has also joined year-around volleyball coaching, hopes to watch the girls grow throughout their middle school careers.
6th grader Abby Triplett says the younger players look up to the varsity team and once piled in after a practice to drive to Ringgold to support the older girls from the sidelines.
Emilee Stansell, 6th grader, said, “We all work together and cheer each other on. Our coaches are tough on us but I feel like they have really helped us get through moments when we’ve doubted ourselves.”
Now under the leadership of Athletic Director Orgena Alexander, the Cougar volleyball program is highly competitive, having to turn away players each season. With many players moving to year-around volleyball as their primary sport, Quinn believes that volleyball will soon be a sport Dalton is known for, and there’s nothing that would make her happier.
Grace Ridley says when the school session ends, she just waits for C4 travel league. “I’d like to tell other people that in volleyball you just have to jump a lot, but honestly it’s mostly about relationships and mental strength. Volleyball is a way of life.”