The vast majority of this explicit column will probably be devoted to a sport close to and pricey to my coronary heart.
No, it isn’t baseball, soccer or basketball this time, however we’re going to aim to current a preview of the highschool volleyball season within the space. Volleyball could possibly be termed the opposite roundball sport, as a result of as any Kentuckian is aware of, basketball, which is also known as roundball, is steeped in custom and entrenched in our tradition.
I turned enamored with volleyball after I first started overlaying it for this newspaper in 2005, and my curiosity has solely grown since that point. Curiosity across the state has elevated as effectively, and extra eyes have been opened in 2020 when the College of Kentucky captured the nationwide championship. The school recreation is far totally different than the highschool model, particularly whenever you have a look at the general athleticism it takes to play on the NCAA Division I degree.
Even in highschool nevertheless, the game is action-packed, fast-moving, thrilling, and a enjoyable sport to play. After teaching at the highschool degree for seven years, I discovered that there’s much more to the sport than merely getting the ball over the online.
Even though basketball in Kentucky attracts probably the most curiosity of any sport (though soccer is gaining floor), it additionally brings with that extra stress to carry out effectively and win, and basketball can also be a extra bodily grueling sport. I’m not saying there isn’t some stress to win in volleyball, particularly on the colleges which have dominated highschool play in Kentucky yr after yr. What I’m attempting to say is that there’s extra of a laid-back really feel to the sport, and having enjoyable needs to be each highschool staff’s primary aim. Don’t get me mistaken although, profitable is a whole lot of enjoyable too, and that needs to be aim 1A.
One other instance of the rising recognition of volleyball is that boys’ volleyball is rapidly gaining momentum. Greater than 30 colleges within the commonwealth fielded membership groups this previous spring, greater than doubling the earlier yr. In Could of this yr, the Kentucky Excessive College Athletic Affiliation agreed to sanction a boys’ volleyball state championship starting within the 2024-2025 college yr, so long as the variety of collaborating colleges reaches 42 (15 p.c of its complete membership).
Boys’ volleyball has been common for years in California, and it has picked up steam in Ohio in recent times. In Cincinnati, Moeller and St. Xavier play an thrilling model of the game, and Moeller has gained three consecutive state titles. Each colleges have been additionally ranked within the MaxPreps high 25 nationwide rankings.
With the highschool volleyball season set to start Monday, let’s take a thumbnail have a look at the 2023 outlook for seven colleges within the space, starting with the 39th District.
LADY SAINTS HOPE TO WIN ANOTHER TITLE – After claiming its third consecutive district title final yr, St. Patrick will probably be present process a rebuild this season.
The Woman Saints noticed 4 starters—Kaylen Gallenstein, Mercedes Hedgecock, Caroline McKay, Makenna Roush—graduate from final yr’s 15-19 squad. Changing the numbers that group put up will probably be no simple process for coach Evan Bothman, in her third yr on the college.
The quartet has been integral to the success that St. Patrick has loved in recent times.
On the within, Gallenstein led final yr’s staff in blocks and was second in kills, and Hedgecock was the Woman Saints’ kills chief. The flexibility, quickness and athleticism of McKay and Roush additionally performed a key function. McKay served for 79 aces and led the staff in digs, whereas Roush led the best way in assists and was second in aces.
St. Patrick returns juniors Bria Bauer and Emma Gallenstein, who each stepped as much as play important roles a yr in the past. Bauer was third on the Woman Saints in digs final season, and Gallenstein was second in blocks, and third in aces and kills.
A pair of different juniors, Kahdyn Kimball and Karlee Mellenkamp, will see elevated taking part in time after getting helpful expertise the previous couple of years. Sophomores Lillian Klee and Makenzie Markley will probably be seeing their first varsity motion and will probably be counted on this yr as effectively.
LADY PANTHERS LOOK TO IMPROVE – Coach Joey Crouch enters his fifth season on the helm of the Augusta program and is trying to fill the beginning spots left by Ryann Cooper and Caylin Sellers, who graduated from final yr’s 6-25 staff.
They have been necessary cogs within the lineup, however Crouch returns three gamers who put up wonderful numbers a yr in the past, led by senior Mariah Niemeier, who led the staff in kills and was tied for the lead in aces. Additionally returning are senior Khloe Lippert and junior Cora Bradford. Lippert led the Woman Panthers in assists and completed tied with Niemeier for probably the most aces. Bradford was the staff’s blocks chief and was third in kills.
KRIFT TO LEAD LADY BEARS – Wade Smith stepped down after final season after profitable 230 video games in 16 years at Bracken County, together with 5 consecutive district titles from 2015-2019.
His successor, Julie Krift, can also be a profitable veteran highschool volleyball coach. She was the top coach at Simon Kenton from 1997-2007, profitable 248 video games and 6 district championships on the Independence college.
Just one senior (Gineva Riley) graduated from final yr’s 8-23 staff, giving Krift a big group of skilled gamers coming again.
High returnees embrace senior Kyleigh Lippert, final yr’s staff chief in kills and blocks; junior Nicole Archibald, who led in aces and assists; senior Haley Stewart, second in aces and assists; and junior Macy Lucas, who completed second in kills and digs.
BOOK TAKES OVER LADY ROYALS – Nellie E book, who had a superb six-year tenure at Lewis County, is taking up the Mason County program this season. E book was 121-75 main the Woman Lions within the at all times sturdy 63rd District. She takes over a staff that went 4-20 a yr in the past, and a program nonetheless searching for its first profitable season since starting varsity play in 2010.
The most important loss from final yr’s staff, Kennadi Kirk, led the Woman Royals in digs, aces and assists, however E book has a big contingent of gamers returning.
Alexis Younger will probably be counted on on the web after main the staff in kills and blocks as a freshman. Sophomore Amirah Reed can even be a key participant after ending simply behind Younger in kills, and third in digs. Senior Stevie Foley was second to Kirk in aces.
LADY DEVILS FACE TOUGH ROAD IN 38TH – Longtime Robertson County coach Ann Grause led the Woman Devils to an 11-14 report final yr, and he or she has a wealth of expertise coming again this season.
It’s at all times a problem taking part in within the 38th District, which has been dominated for years by Harrison County, and in addition consists of Nicholas County and Pendleton County, however the Woman Devils can at all times be counted on to play onerous to the end.
High gamers coming again for Grause embrace final yr’s kills and aces chief, junior Emma Adamson; senior Ruby Homosexual, who was second in kills and aces; senior Lilly Monroe, who was the staff’s blocks chief and third in kills; and sophomore Carlee Church, who was third on the staff in aces.
FLEMING LOOKS TO SUSTAIN SUCCESS – Tanna Higginbotham is coming again for her fourth season on the helm of the Fleming County program, and the Woman Panthers look to proceed their development within the 61st District.
Fleming went 22-13 a yr in the past, together with a pair of seven-game profitable streaks. They completed as district runners-up to perennial energy Rowan County, however they’re trying to break by means of this yr.
The Woman Panthers should substitute a trio of key performers from final yr’s staff, Alexis Williams, who amassed 403 kills final yr and led the staff in blocks, Kate Pugh, who was third in aces and kills, and Chasidy Davis, who led Fleming in aces.
Higginbotham does have a number of skilled gamers returning, together with 4 seniors: Hannah Florence, Shelby Griggs, Emma Hill and Megan Jones.
LADY LIONS LOOK TO REPLACE BIG TWO – Coach Whitney Willis could have a slightly younger staff after seeing six gamers graduate from final yr’s 18-13 squad.
Probably the most notable departures have been Sarah Weddington, who led Lewis County with 437 kills, and Abby Malone, who had 232 kills and served for 107 aces.
High returnees embrace the 2 gamers who led the Woman Lions in assists, junior Graeson Lunger and senior Olivia Mustard. Different key gamers coming again embrace seniors Amiee Lewis, Hannah Miller, Karlee Sutphin and Addison Willis, and sophomore Kiya Noble.
Lewis County can even welcome a key switch, junior Amanda Gilbert, who comes over from St. Patrick. Gilbert led the 20-3 Woman Saints in digs (433) as an eighth-grader in 2020, and in her freshman season the next yr, she led St. Patrick with 62 aces and 94 assists, whereas additionally ending second on the staff with 401 digs.
REDS’ STRUGGLES CONTINUE – After dropping eight of their final 9 video games because the commerce deadline, the Cincinnati Reds trudged into Pittsburgh hoping to get effectively in opposition to the lowly Pirates on Friday evening.
That three-game collection started after this column was written, however right here’s hoping the Reds can regain their stroke on the plate and put the ball in play, equally to what they have been doing earlier within the season. Lately, they look like making an attempt to hit the ball to Kentucky, and though they’ve hit a number of homers, they don’t seem to be a power-hitting staff.
The woes on the plater usually are not the one cause for the staff’s slide.
The drained arms within the bullpen are giving up runs at a breakneck tempo, as evidenced by their horrendous 7.36 earned run common over the past 9 video games.
Basic Supervisor Nick Krall had the chance so as to add pitching assist on the deadline, however as a substitute he remained adamant about holding onto prospects. Prospects are advantageous, however having an actual alternative to win this yr needs to be the last word aim. There are at all times tons of prospects within the minor leagues, and lots of of them flip into suspects. A lot of them by no means attain their potential on the big-league degree, and giving up a number of lower-level prospects may have given the Reds’ beginning employees and bullpen a much-needed enhance.
The Phillies picked up Michael Lorenzen from the Tigers for a younger prospect nonetheless taking part in on the Class-A degree, and the Reds may’ve executed the identical factor and landed a pitcher they might desperately use. You will have seen he simply pitched a no-hitter after a strong begin in his first outing for the Phils. It is also debated that the Reds as soon as had Lorenzen however he was misused as an arm out of the pen; he was by no means given the possibility to be a starter in Cincy.
The identical goes for bettering the bullpen.
We’ve stated it earlier than, however they’re displaying indicators of sporting down with every passing day, particularly nearer Alexis Diaz. Possibly Tejay Antone and Vladimir Gutierrez can come to the rescue, however that is still to be seen.
We additionally preserve listening to concerning the return of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo to the rotation, and the hope is that they can assist down the stretch.
However will that be sufficient to win the division, or a minimum of earn a Wild Card bid?
“A full stomach is little value the place the thoughts is starved.” — Mark Twain
“Volleyball is without doubt one of the most interactive video games going. It’s a recreation of instinct, creativeness, improvisation – however most of all, of reciprocity – of teamwork. There is no such thing as a option to free-lance volleyball.” – longtime Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy, who gained three NCAA nationwide championships