This From the Sidelines column appeared in the July 11, 2018 print edition of the News Journal…
In last week’s column I looked ahead to the upcoming high school soccer season. This week, let’s preview what could happen with our coverage area volleyball teams in 2018…
Corbin Lady Hounds – Corbin won 50th District and 13th Region championship titles last year before seeing their season come to an end with a loss against St. Henry in the first round of the KHSAA state championship tournament in Louisville.
Seniors Sophie Anderson and Natalie Wiseman were big contributors in 2017, helping the Lady Hounds to 28 wins on the year, and their presence will surely be missed on the court this fall. However, the team will return most of their top talent, including junior Mickayla Coppock and seniors Shelby Engle, Payton Jones, Emily Prewitt, Lindsey Siler and Nikki Wagers. Assuming all of those players return this season, this group should be poised for another regional championship run.
Corbin battled it out with a pair of very solid teams in North and South Laurel last year, but they were able to rise to the occasion and pick up victories when it mattered most – defeating South 3-2 for a 50th District title, and beating North 3-1 in the 13th Region finals.
Only North Laurel achieved a better overall win-loss record in 2017, finishing at 29-8, but the Lady Jags lost more players to graduation than the Lady Hounds. For this reason let’s give the Hounds the slight edge to make it back to state again later this year, but they’ll definitely have to earn it with both Laurel County teams, as well as Whitley County, all looking to knock them off the mountaintop.
Whitley County Lady Colonels – Speaking of Whitley County, this should be a very interesting year for the Lady Colonels after the hiring of new head coach Neysa Hernandez.
Hernandez’s arrival was announced earlier this spring not long after former WCHS volleyball head coach David Halcomb was chosen to lead the school’s varsity girls basketball program.
An energetic and very promising young coaching talent, Hernandez looks to take an already-successful Lady Colonels volleyball program and lead them to the next level – getting back to the KHSAA state tourney, and getting a win once there.
After the realignment of districts last season, Whitley’s path to the region tournament is considerably more challenging than it used to be. Previously, they had to get past Barbourville, Lynn Camp and Knox Central. Nothing against those teams, but the fact of the matter is that none of them are typically a real threat to the likes of Corbin or South Laurel, which is who the Lady Colonels now have to contend with in the early stages of postseason play.
Still, Whitley County should be more than capable of making another deep run this fall. With a large veteran group that will likely include returning seniors Emily Barton, Kaylee Conlin, Kaelie Frazier, Katie Helton, Brooklyn Smith and Mackenzie Smith, any lack of success on the court this fall won’t be due to a lack of talent.
Lynn Camp Lady Cats – The Lady Colonels’ old district foe, Lynn Camp, took a step in the right direction last season. It was a very small step, but still, they ended up in a better position than they did in 2016 – totally winless with not even a single set going their way in 22 games.
2017 saw the Lady Cats at least come out on top against 51st District opponents Barbourville on two separate occasions, finishing the year with a 2-18 overall record. That is a long way from the 17 and 18-win seasons of 2013 and 2014, but Lynn Camp was able to reap the benefits of some pretty solid veteran talent back in those days.
Recently, the Lady Cats have suffered due to low numbers and inexperience on the court. Participation is usually going to be a concern for small schools that have several different activities going on at once, but hopefully this year’s LCHS volleyball team can overcome some of the inexperience factor by returning everyone from last fall’s squad.
After 2016 there was truly only one place to go, and that’s up. A pair of wins in 2017 was certainly better than none at all, but now let’s see if the Cats can build off of that limited success and hand some losses to teams other than Barbourville.
Williamsburg Lady Jackets – The performance of the Williamsburg volleyball team in their inaugural season was probably one of the biggest surprises of the entire 2017-18 school year.
When all was said and done, the Lady Jackets had only won eight games, but when you stop to consider the fact that this was the school’s first year ever competing in volleyball, well, you begin to appreciate those eight wins much more.
Head coach Samantha Eier did a great job of getting her team ready to play, and as usual, the Williamsburg athletes really stepped up, with a good mix of upper-and-lowerclassmen coming out to help get this program started off on a high note.
The Lady Jackets were very competitive against Red Bird early on last fall before securing their first-ever victory with a 3-0 win over Lynn Camp. Wins against Middlesboro and Bell County followed later in the season, as well as one against Berea.
In 2018, Eier and the Lady Jackets will hope to achieve double digit wins, and hopefully emerge as strong contenders for a 13th Region All “A” title. They compete against Whitley County, Corbin and South Laurel in the 50th District, so their chances of making it through to the big 13th Region tournament are still pretty low at this point, but don’t count them out. In just one year they have already shown that they are worthy of other teams’ respect.
The 2018 high school volleyball season will get underway in just about a month from right now. With the KHSAA’s mandatory dead period now behind us, teams are free to reconvene and begin preparations in earnest. Stay tuned to see how each of our coverage area teams will progress during the fall 2018 sports season!