H.S. volleyball preview: Henry Clay dominant, but now things get tougher

mfields@herald-leader.comAugust 19, 2012 

  • Pre-season polls

    Kentucky High School Volleyball Coaches pre-season rankings:

    1. Assumption

    2. Sacred Heart

    3. Mercy

    4. Henry Clay

    5. Manual

    6. Louisville Holy Cross

    7. St. Henry

    8. North Oldham

    9. Notre Dame

    10. Ryle

    11. Newport Central Catholic

    12. Tates Creek

    13. Greenwood

    14. Eastern

    15. Central Hardin

    16. Lone Oak

    17. Presentation

    18. Butler

    19. Covington Holy Cross

    20. Louisville Christian

    21. Male

    22. Lafayette

    23. Paul Laurence Dunbar

    24. Oldham County

    25. Owensboro Catholic

    Coaches' 11th Region rankings:

    1. Henry Clay

    2. Lafayette

    3. Tates Creek

    4. Paul Laurence Dunbar

    5. Lexington Christian

When Henry Clay beat perennial power Mercy 25-15, 25-22 in the first round of the state volleyball tournament last fall, it was a stunning upset, probably the biggest ever by a Lexington volleyball team.

Repeating that kind of victory will be more difficult in the future, however. The KHSAA has changed the rules for district, region and state tournament matches. Instead of a best-of-three format, it will be best-of-five.

That means underdog teams will have to win three games instead of just two.

"It might be too much to ask an up-and-coming school like us to beat a team like that three times," Devils coach Dale Grupe said. "They'll beat us nine out of 10 times, or 99 out of 100.

"It's going to be harder to sneak up on somebody."

Closer to home, though, the new format works in Henry Clay's favor. The Devils are usually the better team against city or Central Kentucky competition.

The KHSAA also realigned volleyball districts, and that meant a big change for Lexington teams. Last year Lexington Catholic and Lexington Christian Academy were in the 42nd District with East Jessamine and West Jessamine; Henry Clay, Lafayette, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek made up the 43rd; Bryan Station was in the 44th with Berea, Madison Central and Madison Southern.

The new alignment has Bryan Station, Henry Clay and Scott County in the 42nd, and Dunbar, Lafayette, Lexington Catholic, LCA and Tates Creek in the 43rd.

"It doesn't make sense for our district to have only three teams, and (the 43rd) to have five," Grupe said.

"Why can't one of them come over with us? That's the biggest gripe about it."

BRYAN STATION

Coach: Aussie Stoencheva

Last year: 11-14 (Lost to Lafayette in first round of region)

Top players: Rachel Murphy (sr. oh), Haamiah Nicholson (jr., oh), Devan DeLeon (sr., ds), Victoria McCoy (jr., mb), Tiara Taylor (sr., libero), Shelby McLean (8th, mb), Mallory Zaino (jr., ob), Ginger McCauley (sr., ds), Sarah Marietta (sr., ds), Jensyn Campbell (fr., mb).

Outlook: The Defenders have experienced outside hitters Murphy and Nicholson, and middle blockers McLean and McCoy. They need to develop a setter, though. Stoencheva is optimistic Bryan Station will be improved, but she realizes her program is still playing catch-up in the city.

Defenders' schedule

Aug. 21WESTERN HILLS; 23LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN; 28SCOTT CO.; 30at Henry Clay; Sept. 4MADISON SOUTHERN; 6MADISON CENTRAL; 11LAFAYETTE; 13HENRY CLAY; 18WOODFORD CO.; 25PULASKI CO.; 27at Scott Co.; Oct. 2—PAUL DUNBAR; 4at Tates Creek.


HENRY CLAY

Coach: Dale Grupe (15th season)

Last year: 33-9 (Lost to eventual champ Assumption in state quarterfinals)

Top players: Natsuki Yamawaki (sr., libero), Elizabeth Combs (sr., ds), Emily McClendon (sr., mb), Elle Barnett (jr., rs), Calayci Coffey (so., mb), Lynsey Short (so., setter), Sydney Short (jr., oh/ds), Avery Brown (so., oh/ds), Hallie Shelton (8th, oh).

Outlook: The Devils are No. 4 in the state in the pre-season coaches' poll. "That might be a little high," Grupe said. "But I'd rank us in the top six or seven. We're pretty solid. This may be my best team in my 18 years in coaching as far as the best chemistry, getting along, working hard and pushing the ball around."

Blue Devils' schedule

Aug. 21LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 23at Newport Catholic; 29at Scott Co.; 30BRYAN STATION; 31—at Lafayette tournament; Sept. 1at Lafayette tournament; 7-8at Effingham, Ill. Crossroads Classic; 11at Paul Dunbar; 13at Bryan Station; 22-23at Mother of Mercy (Ohio) Fall Classic; 25TATES CREEK.; 27at Mercy; 28-29—at Asics Class in Chicago; Oct. 1LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN; 2at Lafayette; 4ST. HENRY.


LAFAYETTE

Coach: Chris Langston (19th season)

Last year: 30-7 (Lost to Henry Clay in region finals)

Top players: Sarah Jenkins (sr., rs/mh); Jackie Britt (sr., oh), Annie King (sr., setter), Chandler Kinley (jr.,ds), Cassidy Speer (sr., ds), Abbie Bowling (sr., ds), Tiffany Jones (sr., ds).

Outlook: The Generals are loaded with experience with longtime starters Jenkins, Britt, King and Kinley. Jenkins is one of the top offensive players around. Langston has toughened Lafayette's schedule to get them ready for the post-season.

Generals' schedule

Aug. 28RYLE; 31THOROUGHBRED SMASH AT KBA; Sept. 1—THOROUGHBRED SMASH AT KBA; 5at Lexington Catholic; 6at Beechwood; 11at Bryan Station; 13at Tates Creek; 18LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN; 20—PAUL DUNBAR; 25at Louisville Christian; 26WOODFORD CO.; Oct. 2HENRY CLAY; 4HIGHLANDS.


LEXINGTON CATHOLIC

Coach: Mark McCloskey (Fifth season)

Last year: 16-23 (Lost to Lafayette in region semifinals)

Top players: Cody Michaels (sr., libero), Samantha Thomas (jr., mb), Catherine Young (jr., ds), Abby James (so., mb), Emma Iler (so., setter), Audrey Johns (9th, rs), Morgan Justice (8th, mb/rs).

Outlook: McCloskey thinks the Knights have a good mix of experience, size and promising newcomers. "We have the opportunity to do some good things," the coach said. "We should be able to compete at a higher level."

Knights' schedule

Aug. 21at Henry Clay; 30SCOTT CO.; Sept. 4SOUTH OLDHAM; 5LAFAYETTE; 7-8at Louisville Invitational; 11at Lexington Christian; 13PRESENTATION; 14-15at Woodford Co. Invitational; 20TATES CREEK; 26at Franklin Co.; 27—PAUL DUNBAR; 28-29—at Jefferson Co. Invitational; Oct. 2at Louisville Christian.


LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN

Coach: Teresa Ford (Seventh season)

Last year: 22-11 (Lost to Henry Clay in region semifinals)

Top players: Alli Evans (jr., oh), Emily Terry (sr., mb), Jade Evanoff (jr., mb), Macy Galloway (so., libero), Brooke Wiley (sr., ds), Jordan Woeste (fr., rs), Meredith Ford (fr., os), Laurel Elder (fr., ds).

Outlook: LCA's strength is returning three front-line starters in Evans, Terry and Evanoff. The team's potential rests with the development of newcomers. "We're expecting another good season, but this will be a building year bringing along the younger players," Ford said.

Eagles' schedule

Aug. 23at Bryan Station; 28WESTERN HILLS; 30at Harrison Co.; Sept. 4FRANKLIN CO.; 6WOODFORD CO.; 11LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 13at Scott Co.; 18at Lafayette; 25at Paul Dunbar; 27TATES CREEK; Oct. 1—at Henry Clay; Oct. 4LOUISVILLE CHRISTIAN.


PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

Coach: Jenni Morgan (Eighth season)

Last year: 15-19 (Lost to Henry Clay in district)

Top players: Joia Pollard (sr., mh), Emma Landers (sr., rs), Gabbi Thatcher (sr., mh), Alyssa Gatewood (jr., setter), Hope Gassett (jr., libero), Olivia Canalas (so., oh).

Outlook: After a rare losing record last year, Dunbar looks to bounce back behind veterans Pollard, Landers, Thatcher, Gatewood and Gassett. "The team has been working really hard and it should be a fun season," Morgan said.

Bulldogs' schedule

Aug. 21BOONE CO; 23at South Oldham; 28NORTH OLDHAM; 30at Disney tournament in Orlando, Fla; Sept. 4at Woodford Co.; 6TATES CREEK; 7at Louisville Invitational; 11HENRY CLAY; 20at Lafayette; 25LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN; 27at Lexington Catholic; 29—at Greenwood; Oct. 1—at Eastern; 2at Bryan Station; 4SCOTT CO.


TATES CREEK

Coach: Sara Chaffin (First season)

Last year: 25-9 (Lost to Lafayette in district)

Top players: Danielle Merryman (sr., setter), Sydney Meaux (sr., ds), Kendall Beerman (so., oh), Taylor Reihing (jr., setter), Michaela Carter (so., mh), Macy Reihing (8th, libero).

Outlook: Chaffin inherits a solid nucleus, led by senior captain Merryman and sophomore standout Beerman. If the Commodores can develop middle hitters and teamwork, Chaffin said, they can "surprise some people this year."

Commodores' schedule

Aug. 21MADISON CENTRAL; 23CONNER; Sept. 4at Scott Co.; 6at Paul Dunbar; 11at Woodford Co.; 13LAFAYETTE; 18OLDHAM CO.; 21at Highlands Cake Classic; 25at Henry Clay; 26RYLE; 27at Lexington Christian; Oct. 4—BRYAN STATION; 6—SOUTHWESTERN.

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