Henry Clay is once again the team to beat in 11th Region volleyball. The Blue Devils are aiming for their fifth consecutive region title, and seventh trip to the state tournament in nine years.
Coach Dale Grupe knows it won't be easy.
Henry Clay was rated No. 6 in the state in the coaches' preseason poll, but city rivals Paul Laurence Dunbar and Tates Creek were seventh and eighth, respectively.
The Devils, Bulldogs and Commodores each return two first-team all-city players: Ca'Layci Coffey and Hallie Shelton of Henry Clay; Olivia Canales and Leah Edmond of Dunbar, and Kendall Beerman and Macy Reihing of Tates Creek.
"Regardless of the final outcome," Grupe said, "we're going to enjoy our journey together over the next three months."
Coach: Bonnie Bollmer
Last year: 7-25 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Shelby McLean (so., mh/oh), Shania Radford (so., mh/ds), Tyran Chenault (jr., mh), Jeanice Boyd (sr., oh), Jinger Maggard-Witt (sr., ds), McClain Owens (sr., rh), Logan Richardson (sr., rh), Venus Ross (sr., ds), Taylore Jordan (sr., mh).
Outlook: The Defenders have a good mix of senior veterans and younger players. That should translate into improvement in all areas, including passing, setting and finishing. McLean returns after missing the second half of last season with a knee injury. Bollmer said the biggest thing holding the team back is the girls' "lack of confidence in their abilities."
AUG. 21—MADISON SOUTHERN; 22-23—Boyd Co. tournament; 25—CLARK CO.; 26—DUNBAR; 28—WESTERN HILLS; 29-30—Bluegrass Invitational at KBA.
SEPT. 2—at East Jessamine; 3—FRANKLIN CO.; 4—LAFAYETTE; 6—Montgomery Co. tournament; 9—at Woodford Co.; 11—MONTGOMERY CO.; 12-13—Thoroughbred Smash at KBA; 16—at Lexington Catholic; 18—SOUTHWESTERN; 23—at Henry Clay; 25—SCOTT CO.
OCT. 1—SAYRE; 7—at Bourbon Co.; 9—PULASKI CO.; 14—MADISON CENTRAL; 16—at Harrison Co.
Coach: Dale Grupe
Last year: 32-10 (lost to Notre Dame in state semifinals)
Top players: Ca'Layci Coffey (sr., mb), Lynsey Short (sr., setter), Hallie Shelton (so., mb/oh), Darby Music (so., libero), Jessica Sunnenberg (so., rs/oh), Emma Yarber (so., oh/s), Sierra Gray (fr., oh); Alex Setzer (sr., ds), Raven Bartleston (jr., ds/s), Hannah Adkins (jr., ds), Lauren Parrish (jr., mb/oh).
Outlook: Grupe thinks this team has the potential to be the best in program history. Coffey and Short are surrounded by young but tested talent. "Not just experience with high school play, but many if not all of our players have solid experiences playing the top players and teams in club volleyball in the nation," Grupe said. "We just have to work hard each day and stay together as a family/group and see where it takes us."
Blue Devils' schedule
AUG. 21—at Newport Central Catholic 26—at Lexington Catholic; 29-30—Bluegrass Invitational at KBA.
SEPT. 6—Ravenwood, Tn., 8:30 a.m.; Cooper, 11:30 a.m.; Ryle, 2:30 at Dunbar; 9—at Dunbar; 12-13—at Effingham (ILL) tournament; 16—LCA; 18—at Scott Co.; 20—at Casstown Clash at Miami East (OH); 23—BRYAN STATION; 25—TATES CREEK.
OCT. 3-4—at Mother McAuley tournament (ILL); 14—WOODFORD CO.; 16—ST. HENRY; 18—at McCracken Co.
Coach: Chris Langston
Last year: 25-11 (lost to Dunbar in district)
Top players: Alyssa Hampton (sr., rs), Meredith Britt (jr., oh), Aisha Conwell (jr., mh), Imani Conwell (jr., mh), Bridget Downs (jr., ds), Kelsey Hanley (jr., ds), Allie King (jr., setter), Megan Pauley (jr., oh), Keyton Kinley (jr., oh).
Outlook: The Generals took a major hit from graduation, but Langston thinks they will be "very competitive" with the best teams on their schedule. Defense and serving should be strengths. Lafayette will have to develop their net game.
AUG. 23—KVCA Challenge at Mid-American Sports Center in Louisville; 29-30—Bluegrass Invitational at KBA.
SEPT. 4—at Bryan Station; 9—at Lexington Catholic; 12-13—Thoroughbred Smash at KBA; 16—DUNBAR; 18—at Tates Creek; 25—LOUISVILLE CHRISTIAN; 26-27—at Siegel, TN, tournament; 29—LCA.
OCT. 1—at Madison Central; 2—at Beechwood.; 7—HENRY CLAY; 10-11—Cake Classic at Highlands; 16—HIGHLANDS.
Coach: Ashley Federle
Last year: 15-17 (lost to LCA in district)
Top players: Olivia Bodart (sr, libero), Abby James (sr., oh), Katherine Burns (sr., ds), Emma Iler (sr., setter), Morgan Justice (so., oh), Audrey Johns (jr., rh).
Outlook: The Knights have a solid senior nucleus, including Bodart and James. A good group of younger players will be counted on to strengthen Lexington Catholic's blocking and hitting. Federle said the younger players will have to learn on the job, so there will be a learning curve for court awareness and decision-making.
AUG 26—HENRY CLAY; 29-30—Bluegrass Invitational at KBA.
SEPT. 2—LCA; 4—at Western Hills; 9—LAFAYETTE; 11—at Bethlehem; 12-13—at Woodford County tournament; 16—BRYAN STATION; 17—NORTH OLDHAM; 18—at Franklin Co.; 23—at Tates Creek; 25—OLDHAM CO.; 30—at LCA.
OCT. 3-4—at Jefferson County tournament; 7—at Madison Central; 14—SCOTT CO. 15—DUNBAR.
Coach: Teresa Ford
Last year: 20-13 (lost to Tates Creek in district)
Top players: Macy Galloway (sr., libero), Gabby Townsend (sr., ds), Elle Goodknight (sr., mb), Jordan Woeste (jr., oh), Meredith Ford (jr., oh), Laurel Elder (jr., rh/ds), Rachel DeMarcus (fr., setter).
Outlook: LCA returns eight varsity players, and most of its starters are versatile enough to play more than one position. "They should be able to bring stability and experience under pressure," Ford said. The Eagles' deep bench will be a plus by providing energy and enthusiasm. Ford likes her team's chemistry, too. "They are a close-knit group having a lot of fun together on and off the court."
AUG. 23—at West Jessamine; 25—WESTERN HILLS; 26—at Harrison Co. 28—EAST JESSAMINE.
SEPT. 2—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 4—ANDERSON CO.; 8—at Berea; 9—TATES CREEK; 11—MADISON CENTRAL; 16—at Henry Clay; 17—at Scott Co.; 25—at Woodford Co.; 29—at Lafayette; 30—at Lexington Catholic.
OCT. 7—MERCER CO.; 9—at Dunbar; 16—BRYAN STATION.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR
Coach: Jenni Morgan
Last year: 28-12 (lost to Henry Clay in region finals)
Top players: Rachel Brown (sr., mh), Olivia Canales (sr., oh), Christina Bacon (sr., ds), Claire Huskey (sr., setter/ds), Mary Martin (sr., setter/oh), Leah Edmond (jr., oh/mh), Katie Shunk (jr., oh/mh), Keriann Ferguson (jr., setter), Francesca Macchiavello (so., ds), Murphy Powell (so., oh).
Outlook: The Bulldogs graduated six seniors, but still have talented veterans, notably Brown, Canales, Huskey and Martin. Dunbar will also get a boost from experienced juniors Edmond (who has commited to Kentucky) and Shunk. Morgan said her team has lots of room for improvement, but she thinks that will happen because of the players' work ethic.
AUG. 21—at South Oldham; 26—at Bryan Station; 28—SCOTT CO.
SEPT. 3—PRESENTATION; 6—COOPER and RAVENWOOD, TN; 9—HENRY CLAY; 12-13—at Louisville Invitational; 16—at Lafayette.; 19-20—at Brentwood (TN) Invitational; 30—TATES CREEK.
OCT. 1—at Eastern; 7—ST. HENRY; 9—LCA; 11—Columbus East (IND) tournament; 15—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 16—MALE.
Coach: Sara Chaffin
Last year: 27-10 (lost to Henry Clay in first round of region)
Top players: Kendall Beerman (sr., oh), Micaela Magsig (sr., setter), Julia Loveday (jr., mb), Macy Reihing (so., ds), Doris Carter (so., ds), Mary Catherine O'Neil (so., setter), Kailee Bingman (so., rs).
Outlook: Beerman, an Indiana University commit and one of the state's top players, epitomizes the team's hard-hitting attitude. Chaffin likes her team's passing ability, too. The Commodores are young (only two seniors), and will be tested by a difficult schedule. "That should help challenge our team to reach our potential," Chaffin said.
AUG. 21—at Scott Co.; 23—KVCA tournament in Louisville; 26—CAMPBELL CO.
SEPT. 3—at Woodford Co.; 6—at Barr-Reeve (Ind.) Invitational; 9—at LCA; 10—at Madison Central; 12-13—Thoroughbred Smash at Lafayette and KBA; 15—BOONE CO.; 16—LOU. CHRISTIAN; 18—LAFAYETTE; 23—LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 25—at Henry Clay; 30—at Dunbar.
OCT. 2—MALE; 7—BETHLEHEM; 9—NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC; 11—Columbus East (IND) tournament; 14—NORTH OLDHAM; 16—at South Oldham; 18—OLDHAM COUNTY, COOPER (tri-match).
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.