HEBRON ESTATES - North Bullitt’s volleyball team had one of the area’s top teams a year ago, a team that earned the top seed for the 29th District on their home floor.
But in a matter of moments, the season came to crashing halt with a three set loss to Bullitt East in the first round of the post-season.
At that point, freshman coach Ashley Byerley sat at the end of the bench. When head coach Jeannette Pryor stepped down in the spring, Byerley, who played her high school volleyball at Bullitt East, decided that she wanted to take over the program.
“I’ve been the freshman coach the past couple of years,” Byerley said during a freshman team practice last week. “I had worked with the varsity group now when they were younger. The opening came so I went for it.”
Byerley is teaching at Shepherdsville Elementary and then commutes to North Bullitt. Once school starts, the Lady Eagles won’t start practicing until 5 p.m.
A 2003 graduate of Bullitt East who played under head coach Denise Fryman, Byerley (Ashley Dorris) inherits a young, but talented group that won 17 matches last season. Even with that experience, this group includes just one senior. The backbone of the 11-player varsity roster is a junior class that has nine members.
North Bullitt recently played its first matches under Byerley in the Bluegrass State Games where the team had a third place finish in the bronze division.
“I think we’re where we want to be,” Byerley said of the girls playing for a new coach and vice-versa. “We have a very strong group of girls. We still might be young, but we have experience.”
The 4-4 finish in Lexington in the Bluegrass Games was a strong start.
“They girls really came together in that event,” Byerley pointed out. “I think that really showed that the hard work is paying off. It shows they want to work hard and succeed.”
While the Lady Eagles don’t have a dominating presence in the middle, they do have three player at 5-10. On the other hand, ten of the 11 varsity team members are at least 5-8.
The lone senior this season is Kelsey Hall. She will be one of the Lady Eagle captains when the team plays its first games of the season this week against Fern Creek on Tuesday and Shelby County on Thursday. North Bullitt will play at home for the first time next Monday against Whitefield Academy.
“She has shown strong leadership in pulling this team together,” the Lady Eagle coach said. “Her experience has brought us out of some holes. Which is good.”
Byerley has opted to install a completely new alignment, switching to a 6-2. Perhaps more importantly, the coach feels that this group of girls is very focused on its goals.
“Overall, we’re very disciplined this year,” Byerley said. “We know what we want to accomplish and that is winning the district and regional.
“We have set goals,” the coach added. “Our number one goal is to win the district. We had the ability last year, but we have that goal now. We want to do well at regionals now when we get there.”
The quarterback of the Lady Eagles will be either junior Kiersten June or sophomore Kaitlyn Gividen who will be the setters. June did some setting last season, but this is a new role for Gividen.
The hitting on the left side will be handled by juniors Caitlin Crowder and Brittany Farnsley while June, Gividen or junior Kenzie Ringo can hit from the other side. In the middle, juniors Brooke Adams and Erin Downs will do the blocking.
If Byerley opts to use a defensive specialist she can call on junior Elizabeth Wilmoth or Hall. Wilmoth is new to North Bullitt.
The libereo position can be filled by either Norris or Wilmoth.
“I can use all 11, but it is hard to say at this point,” the new coach said. “It just depends on the match and how things are going.”
Byerley did not have to go very far to find her junior-varsity coach. Kevin Byerley, the coaches’ husband will be the top assistant coach. Last year’s JV coach, Joanna Hale, who teaches freshmen at North Bullitt, will coach the freshmen team this season.
North Bullitt had 45 players try out for the three squads and Byerley and her coaching staff kept 29 players.
“We have a harder schedule and that was by design,” the coach said. “We have to play strong teams to get better.
“We might not have a 25-win season, but we have that ability,” Byerley concluded. “You have to play tougher teams to be tougher. This will be a very tough schedule.”