MOUNT WASHINGTON - The Bullitt East Lady Chargers will go for an unprecedented sixth straight district volleyball crown this fall and with five experienced seniors, they are the heavy favorites.
A year ago, Bullitt East reached the semi-finals of the Eighth Region Tournament a week after beating North Bullitt in the district final.
Everybody is aware that Bullitt East is the favorite, but it is not something that veteran head coach Michelle Gajdik discusses much with her girls.
“I don’t harp on it,” she said during practice on Monday of this week. “I guess it is an untalked about expectation.
“I really don’t talk about it,” she added. “I know that is my goal. I don’t want to be the coach who losses the district.”
Bullitt East has five seniors who have never lost a match in the district tournaments. They did lose a match to North Bullitt last year in the regular season, but turned that around to beat the Lady Eagles late in the regular season and then in the district final.
When asked about leadership, Gajdik just said that it was not an issue.
The pre-season coaches’ poll had Bullitt East fifth in the Eighth Region to start the season. The three Oldham County teams had the top spots while Shelby County was fourth and Bullitt East fifth. Bullitt East will play all three of the Oldham County squads during the regular season.
The Lady Chargers also recently battled Shelby County in the Bluegrass State Games, losing a tight battle. Those two teams will not play during the regular season.
“The biggest weakness we’ve had when we face the top teams is defense,” Gajdik pointed out. “We are working on that very hard. We changed up the defense some from what we’ve been playing.”
Gajdik had a very strong team returning on paper at the end of last season. However, during the off-season, All-State basketball player Kayla Thacker opted to concentrate on that sport while Jackie Stevens and Lindey Young, one-two finishers in the state shot put in the spring, will also stick to basketball and track.
“When you have girls doing other sports, you really want to get them to concentrate on one sport,” Gajdik said.
Still, there is plenty of firepower remaining, led by seniors Jade Troutman and Brittany Gajdik, the coaches’ daughter. Both of those players are already getting looks from college coaches.
The key addition to the program is freshman Hannah Adkins. Michelle Gajdik is hoping that Adkins can step in and handle the setting chores, freeing up Brittany Gajdik to join Troutman as a hitting option.
“We’ve been running a 5-1 with Brittany (setting), but we lose a hitter with that,” the coach said. “We want to move Hannah to the setting so we’ll gain that hitter back. Brittany is better at hitting than setting. In college she will do hitting, not setting.”
Having an extra hitting option will free up a lot more of the court for Troutman. Every coach in central Kentucky knows that Troutman can get the ball down with power. Gajdik is aware of that also and she is very aware that her team can get a lot of points by using Troutman as a decoy.
“She’s not the only one we have,” the coach said of hitters other than Troutman. “People expect her do that that. There are times we don’t want her doing all the hitting.”
Three seniors will start with Troutman, Gajdik and Samantha Johnson on the court. They will be joined by juniors Lindsay O’Brien and Meredith Polson as well as Adkins.
Depth will come from a group that includes the other two seniors, Amanda Sherlock and Victoria Kute. Juniors Ciara Bickley and Sidney Boling will also come off the bench. Bickley will handle the Libro duties.
Bullitt East did make some changes in the coaching staff this season. Amanda Miles returns this year and has moved up to be the junior-varsity coach. The new coach is Ed Fischer and he will work with the freshmen.
Almost all of the Bullitt East matches during the regular season will be freshman/junior-varsity/varsity contests.
The high school volleyball season started on Monday of this week, but Bullitt East will not have a match until next Monday when they travel to Taylorsville to take on Spencer County. Next Thursday, the red and gold travel to North Bullitt.
The open week is not a problem to Gajdik.
“It’s good,” the coach said. “That is just because we had the kids camp during the first week of practice and then try-outs and then we pushed to get ready for the Bluegrass State Games. Having the extra week is good.”
The team just has an extra week to get fine-tuned for a big season.
“I always have high expectations,” Gajdik noted. “This is Bullitt East.”