Benton duo inks to play at next level
Buchanan heading out of state
BENTON – After a very successful career with the Benton Lady Panthers volleyball team, earning All-state honors and leading Benton to the 5A state championship game this past year, senior setter Lydia Buchanan will be getting closer to her hometown after signing to play volleyball for the Walters State Community College Wednesday at Benton High School.
Buchanan said it was a tough choice between Walters State, located in Morristown, Tennessee, and Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
“It was between Ouachita Baptist University and Walters State,” Buchanan said. “I loved Ouachita Baptist and it was a very hard choice between the two schools. The coaches and the players at the two schools were just amazing, but Walters State was my home.”
Buchanan expanded on why she chose Walters State.
“The coaches and the players, and just the atmosphere felt very homey,”
she said. “The coaches were very welcoming and the girls … I went to an open gym back in July and they just welcomed me and I wasn’t even thinking about going there yet.”
Walters State, just northeast of Knoxville, Tennessee, is a lot closer to her original hometown.
“We are from a little town called Irwin, Tennessee,” Buchanan said. “It’s about an hour and 45 minutes away from the college, but they’re (her parents) thinking about moving back to Greenville. I’m very excited about moving back to Tennessee and hopefully my grandparents, my cousins will all get to see me because I live 12 hours away right now.”
Starting since her sophomore season for the Lady Panthers, Buchanan teamed
up with then senior Caitlin Murdock at setter in a 6-2 system.
“She has created stability at the setting position,” said Benton Coach Michelle Shoppach, who was Buchanan’s junior high coach before taking over the varsity coaching reins this past season. “We were able to run a 6-2 as a sophomore and a 5-1 as a junior and senior. (Buchanan) puts up a decent block on the right side and she’s able to get the ball to the hitters we need and makes the defense guess about what she’s doing. When she plays above the net, she’s as good as any of them.
“She has a knack for knowing where there are open spots, shooting the ball to right back, left back, and she’s gotten a ton of kills for us, and adding a dump
to the doughnut hole. This year she’s finally gone up with a really strong swing and hitting with power.”
Buchanan was all over the stat sheet in her Allstate senior season, leading the squad with 756 assists, adding 116 kills as a setter, 47 service aces, 49 blocks, which was second on the team, and 145 digs. Buchanan credits her coaches at Benton, including former varsity Coach Brandy Chumley and assistant coach Rachel Dodson, to help her grow as a player.
“I would definitely say the coaches that I’ve had have impacted me a lot and I wouldn’t be the player I am today,” she said. “I grew a lot from my sophomore to senior year, and thanks to Coach Chumley, Coach Dodson and Coach Shoop (Shoppach), all the coaches
who’ve impacted me to make me the player I am today.”
Buchanan, who plans to major in business after switching from criminal justice and graphic design, credits her team as well.
“The team has meant everything,” she said. “I’ve made so many friends, so many memories on this team. I don’t think I’m ready to let it go, but the day will come when I’ll have to let it go. This group has had so much grit and determination to make that happen that
I’m very proud to be a part of this team with all these special girls that have the commit and grit. That’s what Benton has taught me – you have to push through the hard times, you have to look at the end of the tunnel and just commit and grit.”
“Lydia is one of the sweetest,
most kind-hearted best athletes that has come through here, and I’ve been here a long time,” Chumley, who currently coaches the seventh grade, said. “She works really hard. She’s got some of the best hands we’ve seen come through our program. It’s just so good to see all her hard work come through.”
And Shoppach said Walters State is definitely getting an asset in Buchanan, who will be hard to replace.
“She’s got a variety of sets,” Shoppach said. “She’s not one-dimensional by any means. She directs the offense similar to what a quarterback does and we’re going to miss that presence. We’ve got big shoes to fill.”
Benton seniors Lydia Buchanan, left, and Jaden Woolbright sign to play at the next level Wednesday at Benton High School.