The 2012 high school volleyball season for Walker Valley's Judy Pruett has been an exasperating one in some ways, but one she'll always treasure. It's the only chance she'll have to coach her daughters at the same time.
Not surprisingly for 17-year-old senior Taylor Pruett, she considers having 14-year-old freshman sister Madison as a teammate a blessing, but with challenging moments.
"It's been good and bad," Taylor said. "It's been fun for the most part, but of course we're always going to fight like sisters do."
Little sister has her view of the situation, too.
"I feel closer to Taylor now," Madison said. "Before when I was playing in middle school, she'd be with all her high school friends and I didn't fit in. Now we're on the same team and it's different. Even outside of volleyball we're closer."
Actually little sister, at 5-foot-7, is a couple of inches taller than Taylor. But she's undersized for a hitter in rugged District 5-AAA, where the Lady Mustangs are 4-6 heading into this evening's league match at McMinn County.
Taylor has been a defensive specialist in her career and is playing libero this season. To date she's played in all 106 games this year for Walker Valley and has 542 digs to go with 33 aces.
"Taylor is a lot like me," Coach Pruett said. "She works extremely hard to be the best passer she can be. She's been a good leader and does a good job keeping the team up."
Mom added that Madison is more like Dad. She's the more athletic sister and is continually learning the sport.
A 14-21 overall record is not what the Pruett clan nor any of the other Lady Mustangs had hoped for this season. It didn't help that Madison suffered a second-degree sprained ankle in practice the day before the first match.
She missed the first five matches plus a tournament before returning Aug. 30 when Walker Valley played at Bradley Central. As one of two ninth-graders -- Ashlen Flock is the other -- getting playing time off the varsity bench, Madison has totaled 62 kills in 64 games played.
"Madison is definitely more athletic than me," Taylor said, "but I still keep my skill up to par. She still has a lot of room to grow. I end up giving her some advice sometimes. I try not to boss her around."
The Lady Mustangs have had some success against winning teams this year, so with postseason looming they could be a threat to work through district-tournament play and into the Region 3 tournament.
No matter what, Walker Valley's season will end sometime this month and Taylor will be moving on to college and leaving volleyball behind. She'll miss it, and she'll be missed, too.
"I've really enjoyed having my sister and my mom on the team," Madison said. "When I go home I can ask them things about the games and get advice from them. It's going to be sad when it ends. Taylor is one of my best friends. She can be a little bossy, but I've gotten used to it."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.