SHEPHERDSVILLE - If there was one thing that has been consistent about Bullitt Central volleyball, it was in the head coaching ranks. Over the past decade, the program has had just two coaches - Buddy Gallemore and Chad Foster.
So it really is a new era for the maroon and gray this season as Jennifer Romine steps in to lead the Lady Cougars after Foster resigned in the spring.
Romine is well known to many in the community and at Bullitt Central as a coach. She has coached middle school basketball as well as working as a basketball assistant coach under Christy Coulter. This past spring, Romine was the girls’ tennis coach at Bullitt Central.
While Romine has a lot of coaching experience, this will be her first foray into working indoors with volleyball. She played the sport herself in a number of different formats from Co-Ed to sand events.
(Romine is the mother of Bullitt East basketball standout Shelby Romine who will be a senior this coming season.)
To hear Romine describe it, her hiring was not your normal way of becoming a high school coach.
"Mr. Rogers (BC athletic director Mark Rogers) came to me and said the previous night that he had an epiphany and that coach Romine would do it,” Romine said following a practice last week. “I pondered over it for a little and I do love to coach. With Shelby playing basketball I didn’t want to do basketball this year, but I said I’ll give volleyball a shot.”
On the varsity level, Romine also has a new assistant coach as April Smith joins the staff. The most experienced staff member is coach Terry Fox who will once again work with the freshman program.
“Coach Fox does have a lot of experience with volleyball,” Romine pointed out. “Between his knowledge and my philosophy and beliefs I think we can come together as a pretty good team.”
Bullitt Central has struggled in volleyball over the past couple of seasons. The team really had troubles last season, winning just two matches and losing in the first round of the district tournament.
Romine, who teaches at Bullitt Central, feels that the team may have splintered last season. She has been promoting unity and team work this summer.
“We’ve gone through and had the girls set goals both for themselves and the team,” Romine explained. “Last year they won two games. Now our goal is ten. The end result of course is to win the district. We know we have stout competition from (Bullitt) East.”
The Lady Cougars don’t have a lot of experience returning so Romine plans to shorten the varsity roster. For the first match on Tuesday of this week at home against Spencer County, she plans to have just nine varsity players on the bench.
The good news is that there was a lot of interest in the program during try-outs and the coaches did have to cut a few players. A few more were going through try-outs as late as last week.
Overall, Romine and her coaches have 31 players on the current roster. That is more than enough to play freshman and junior-varsity matches preceding most of the varsity contests. That will give the younger players more chances to gain experience as well as catching the coaches’ eye. The roster now includes three eighth-graders as well as a sixth-grader.
“Teaching them the fundamentals is the key,” Romine said. “We had some open gyms this summer and we’ve worked on the basics - serving, setting and passing.”
At this point, the Lady Cougars have three seniors that will anchor the varsity program.
The two key players that Romine will count on during her first season are seniors Kallie Kuprion and Qualeatha Bennett. Both have been in the program for a number of years and have a high skill level and athletic talent.
Kuprion will be the left hitter and Romine says that the senior will probably be on the court all the time. She is hoping to play volleyball at the next level.
Bennett is the most athletic of the Lady Cougars and one of the top basketball players in the area. She will play in the middle blocking position, but she can also hit.
The rest of the rotation can vary a bit. Sophomore Leah Plush will fill the Libro spot, but she could also fill in as the setter. The starting setter will be sophomore Sarah Spurling. Joining Bennett in the middle will be sophomore Chelsea Staples and the right hitter will be junior Carra Dukes.
The other three players on the varsity will get their share of playing time. Senior Becca Steffan will be a right back and sophomore Kelsey Holmes will play in the left back. The other varsity team member will be junior Shelby Miles.
“I have a rotation that I’ll use,” Romine said.
(It is possible that at some point during the season that Genell Smith could be added to the roster. She played volleyball, basketball and softball at Bullitt Central two years ago, but then left and attended both Assumption and Fern Creek. She is now back at Bullitt Central, but her paperwork from the KHSAA has not been finalized.)
Foster had pretty much created the schedule by the time Romine took over. She has added a tournament on Sept. 5 at LaRue County and would like to add one more tournament at some point during the season.
“It’s kind of an easy schedule,” Romine admitted. “Maybe that is what the girls need to get some confidence and build up morale.”
Bullitt East is the only one of the top five teams in the Eighth Region in the pre-season coaches’ poll that Bullitt Central will play during the regular season.