High school volleyball: Henry Clay 3, Bryan Station 0

mfields@herald-leader.comAugust 30, 2012 

Henry Clay's Emily McLendon(8) swatted the ball into the defense of Bryan Station's Rachel Murphy and Shelby McLean Thursday.

MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader

Nine matches into the volleyball season, Henry Clay is undefeated, rated No. 5 in the state and hardly tested.

The Blue Devils strutted their stuff with a three-game sweep (25-11, 25-15, 25-14) of visiting Bryan Station Thursday night.

They've has dropped only two games all year, both coming in a 3-2 victory over No. 16 Lone Oak.

Coach Dale Grupe said in the pre-season that this Devils' team could develop into one of the best he's ever had. That's saying a lot considering the program's success over the years.

Emily McLendon, a senior middle blocker, agrees with her coach.

"We do have a lot of potential," she said. "We really feel the chemistry, how close we are and how we all try to be the best we can be. ... We all complement each other. We mix well. We all feel a connection."

Grupe thinks Henry Clay's depth is its best asset. He's been using a rotation that includes 10 or 11 players, and he's still tweaking his starting lineup.

Veterans include seniors McLendon, Natsuki Yamawaki and Elizabeth Combs, junior Elle Barnett, and sophomore CaLayci Coffey.

Sophomore Lynsey Short has taken over the role of setter after four-year starter Jordan Strickland graduated.

"Lynsey had a tough act to follow," Grupe said. But she's embraced it. She's a tenacious worker and has done a great job spreading the ball around."

Junior Sydney Short and sophomore Avery Brown are regular contributors, too, as is eighth-grader Hallie Shelton, who's second in kills. "We've got weapons everywhere," Grupe said. "We've got five girls (Coffey, McLendon, Barnett, Shelton and Avery Brown) who can get two to five kills in any game.

"The bottom line is passing. If we pass well, we've got a good setter and the hitters in all areas."

Yamawaki said replacing last year's stars Strickland and Emily Stromberg is a challenge that will be met "by improving our defense. That the thing we need to work on the most."

Grupe wishes Henry Clay's early schedule could have been a little tougher to prepare them for what's coming. The Devils will play in top-notch tournaments in Effingham, Ill., Cincinnati and Chicago in the next few weeks.

"We're definitely going to hit it hard the rest of the way," he said.

Bryan Station, meanwhile, is trying to build its program. Coach Aussie Stoencheva saw signs of progress in her team's play at Henry Clay.

The Defenders showed flashes in each game, led by senior Rachel Murphy, junior Victoria McCoy and eighth-grader Shelby McLean, but they couldn't sustain long runs against the Devils.

"We had some beautiful hustle and some amazing saves," Stoencheva said. "We were lacking some defense. But progress is being made. We're getting better."

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