BY DARREN REESE
MORRISTOWN - Erika Waycaster always knew she wanted to play volleyball on the collegiate level.
And when Walters State Community College announced it was adding the sport for the 2012-13 school year, it seemed like that perfect opportunity for the former Chuckey-Doak multi-sport standout.
Waycaster has been the starting setter on the Lady Senators' inaugural volleyball team this fall, and she is loving every minute of it.
"It's been amazing so far," said Waycaster, a 2012 C-D graduate who was an All-District performer for the Black Knights during her playing career.
"It's kind of crazy," she added. "The team was kind of thrown together at the last minute. Really, we are a bunch of misfits. But we go together really well and have great team chemistry."
The team is made up of entirely local talent, including players from Morristown East, Morristown West, Jefferson County, Grainger County, Cocke County, Jellico and Cherokee high schools.
Former Walters State basketball standout and current women's basketball assistant Jasmin Coleman is serving as the team's head coach.
Coleman played volleyball in high school but had been away from the sport for several years when she was asked to lead the Lady Senators' squad this season. Still, she knows talent when she sees it, and she has been impressed with Waycaster's abilities.
"Sometimes Erika pulls things out of air that I didn't think even she was capable of," Coleman said. "She is just a tremendous athlete and a great competitor."
Waycaster has brought leadership qualities to the squad that was desperately needed, according to her head coach.
"Being a first year team, you wonder how it's all going to come together as far as personalities and everything," Coleman said. "Erika has stepped up and become one of our leaders, and that is important."
"She has that personality that no matter what has happened throughout the day off the court, she is going to leave it at the door and concentrate strictly on her game when she gets out there."
The Lady Senators are currently 6-4 on the season, having played tournaments in Alabama and South Carolina.
"It says a lot that we have been able to be as successful as we have been in our first season," Waycaster said.
"When I went to tryouts I knew a lot of the girls, so I knew that if we all worked together then we would have a chance to be good. We all love the game and want to work hard no matter what."
Waycaster started playing volleyball at a young age, and it immediately became her first love, even though she was an accomplished softball player, as well.
She was the starting setter all four years at Chuckey-Doak, but played the libero position for her competitive team during the offseason.
Setter has always been her natural spot on the court, though.
"I've always been smaller and had great hands," Waycaster explained, "so being a setter came really easy for me.
"Plus I like to be in control and really control the tempo of the game, which you can do as the setter."
Waycaster was already looking at possible college destinations when the opportunity arose at Walters State. Virginia Intermont was among several schools she was considering.
"When I heard about Walters State starting a team, I just thought it would be the perfect fit," she said, "to go to a local school and help them start a program, and at the same time get two years of college underneath me."
Waycaster hopes to be able to continue her volleyball playing career at a four-year institution once her days as a Lady Senator are over. Her coach believes she has the talent to do so.
"When we have been playing some of these (four-year schools) this year, I've had opposing coaches ask about her," Coleman said.
Waycaster also has her sights set on becoming a teacher and a coach one day.
But for now, she is enjoying being a part of history.
"To be the first team ever at your school is special," she said. "It has really been a lot of fun."