Volleyball season opens play next Monday

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Tough final loss motivates Central

By Mike Farner

 SHEPHERDSVILLE – After a season that included more than its fair share of disappointments, the Bullitt Central volleyball team is looking for a much better season in 2013.

     That is often the feeling when you have every player back from a year ago. After posting a 5-26 mark, coach Katie VanVactor’s program is looking to be if just because they are older and more experienced.

     After the dismal regular season a year ago, the Lady Cougars bowed out of post-season play after just one match, a frustrating loss to Moore in the 23rd District semi-finals. The maroon and gray were up two games to none, but then lost in the fifth game 19-17.

     VanVactor feels that matched motivated her players in the off-season. Almost all of the varsity players were involved with either club teams or KVA during the off-season.

     “I think that was our main thing to being so pro-active,” VanVactor said following a practice last week of the girls wanting to get better by playing more out of the high school season. “They knew they had to go out and play to be competitive. They used that as motivation.”

     The summer program has already gotten off to a better start. Competing in the Bluegrass State Games at the end of July, the team rallied from a poor showing in ‘pool’ play to win three straight matches in the Division 7 bracket to win a gold medal at that level. The Lady Cougars defeated district-rival North Bullitt in that final. The final mark for the weekend was a 3-3 record.

     “That was a good experience for us,” VanVactor said. “They got some bonding experience and they got to play together. That was big for us

     “I think we’re all getting pretty comfortable with each other,” the coach added. “Last year it was just inexperience. We were so young last year that it was a steep learning curve for them. They worked hard and played together in the Bluegrass Games.”

     After a season in which VanVactor dropped the only seniors early in the campaign, Bullitt Central will start this season with four seniors who all got experience last season. The 12-player varsity roster also has six juniors.

     VanVactor also has more experience under her belt. A former Lady Cougar player (Katie Lee), last year was her first year as a head coach. The combination of a young coach and young players didn’t work out so well. Now there is experience on the court and on the sideline.

     “Now it feels like it is all coming together well,” the coach said a week before the team opens the season on Aug. 20 at home against Martha Layne Collins High School.

     Even with 12 players on the varsity roster, VanVactor is expecting eight of the players to do most of the work, at least early in the season.

     Doing the setting will be junior Amber Harp. The Lady Cougars will start the season with a 5-1 look, they have have been working on a 6-2 look that utilizes two setters.

     In the 5-1, the middle blockers will be seniors Eryn Toogood and Amy Gossett. The outside hitters will be senior Haley Dukes and junior Ashley Larison. On the right side, VanVactor will be using junior Kaitlyn Cundiff while the two candidates for the defensive specialist jobs are senior Kenzie Miller and junior Darian McDonald.

     “If we play a 5-1 then that will be pretty it,” VanVactor said of rotating eight players into matches. “If we go to a 6-2 then we have some others we can rotate in.”

     The other four players are freshman Jacqueline Goff who could help with the setting. In the middle the Lady Cougars could use sophomore Emily Logsdon or junior Shelby Stamps, the program’s tallest player at almost 6-feet. Amber Wolf, a junior, could help on the left side.

     “It’s a good option that I have there,” VanVactor said of her depth. “On Saturday at the Bluegrass Games we were tired and off our game. We switched about everybody out. The ones coming off the bench did the job.”

     This will be the second season that Bullitt Central will play in the 23rd District with North Bullitt, Moore, Southern and Evangel.

     VanVactor thinks it will be a good season if the players stick together and perform as they did late in the Bluegrass Games.

     “As long as they are playing to the best of their ability, I’ll be happy,” the coach said. “We saw that in the Bluegrass Games. They played tough and strong and played together. It was all clicking.

     “As long as they play to the best of their ability it will be good,” VanVactor concluded.