Whitlow becomes Eagles' new coach

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By Mike Farner

 HEBRON ESTATES – Coming off one of the best seasons in the program’s history, a season that included the championship of the 23rd District Tournament as well as a spot in the semi-finals of the Sixth Region Tournament, the North Bullitt Lady Eagles are in a rebuilding mode this fall.

     That rebuilding starts at the top as Scott Whitlow has taken over the reins of the program from former head coach Ashley Byerley. Whitlow has long been involved with club teams in Louisville and he has coached some former and present North Bullitt players. It was some of those players who encouraged him to apply for the Lady Eagles job when it came open in the spring.

     Whitlow is not teaching at North Bullitt. He is a vice-president at Velox Express, a transportation company based in Indianapolis. His office is located in southern Jefferson County.

     Whitlow has only three players on his varsity roster this season that were on the varsity squad last season. Byerley’s final team posted a 22-10 record before losing to Whitfield Academy in the Sixth Region semi-finals.

     “They are a very inexperience group at this time,” Whitlow said after a practice last week. “We have three club ball players in the entire program. There is a lot of situational and technical training that needs to be done.”

     The first competitive work for the Lady Eagles came two weeks ago in the Bluegrass State Games in Lexington. The squad struggled in ‘pool’ play but then in Division 7 they got to the gold medal match. At that point, they played district rival Bullitt Central, losing in three games with it being very close in the third game.

     The players and coach are still working to get on the same page. Whitlow has installed multiple offenses but would like to whittle that down once he gets a feel for what the players can execute.

“I have three offensive line-ups,” the coach said. “I’m not set on any of them right now.

     I like to start with a 6-2,” Whitlow added of having two setters. “After that I can switch to a 5-1 (one setter) easily. I like to begin it in a 6-2 and go 5-1.”

     At this point, Whitlow has 11 players on his varsity roster. Nine of those will play only in the varsity matches while two others will compete in some junior-varsity matches.

     This North Bullitt squad has three seniors and two of those, Courtney Donaldson and Kaitlyn Gividen played for the green and gold last season. The third senior is Steffini Watkins.

     Leadership will have to come from that group.

     “I’m kind of pushing them,” Whitlow said of the seniors. “I think our team leaders haven’t stepped up yet. I don’t want to assign that. I want it to develop.”

     North Bullitt is a work in progress.

     “We’ve been working really hard since June 1,” Whitlow pointed out. “We’re behind what I saw Bullitt Central doing technically. I think by district tournament time we’ll be ready.

     “Right now, 30 percent of the plays we run are good volleyball plays,” the coach added. “It was at 10 percent. By the end of the year if we’re at 60 percent then that is a good number. We are working toward that goal.”

     Whitlow wasn’t ready to name any starters at this point and he feels that there will be matches where all 11 of his varsity players will see action at key times. He did say that as many as three of the players could play all the way around in key matches.

     Besides the three seniors, the North Bullitt roster includes a pair of juniors – Jasmine Jasgarszewski and Celesta Spratt. The biggest group of players are in the sophomore class as five players fill that part of the roster – Emily Ruble, Taylor Stayton, Chayse Vincent, Emily Corn and Devyn Tompkins. Rounding out the roster is 8th-grader Megan Eskridge.

     North Bullitt doesn’t have a lot of height this season on the varsity. The tallest of the Lady Eagles is freshman Savannah Glass who is 6-feet tall. Whitlow said that she is getting close to earning time with the varsity despite a lack of experience with volleyball.

     Whitlow would like this group to get the ball up and down. Long points are not the way he wants to go.

     “I want to play power,” he said. “I don’t want to stay in a point and let other make the mistakes. If you stay in a point then it becomes a coin toss who will make errors. I want to go for the win.”

     The coach feels that the team’s mentality will fit that as the season develops.

     “We have the potential to do that,” Whitlow said of getting the ball down off the hit. “We’re not doing it yet. We haven’t put the pieces together yet.”

     North Bullitt has 33 girls in the program after having 45 players compete at the try-outs. The program also has two new assistant coaches as Jan Reece will handle the junior-varsity while former North Bullitt player Jordan Vincent will coach the freshman.

     The Lady Eagles will open the season on the very first day possible, playing host to Spencer County on Monday, Aug. 19.