Bryan Station volleyball is on an uptick and shows no sign of slowing down.
Bryan Station is 23-5. That win total tops the number for the program’s previous two seasons — combined. The Defenders’ record for wins in an entire season is 24, a mark that seems easily passable with at least eight matches left to play this season (seven in the regular season and one guaranteed in the 42nd District Tournament).
This is Station’s first 20-win season since 2010. It last reached the 11th Region Tournament in 2011, when it was in a district with Berea, Madison Central and Madison Southern.
First-year head coach Hilary McKenzie, who in April was inducted into the University of Pikeville’s athletics Hall of Fame, was a late hire but quickly instilled a sense of pride in a program that finished well below .500 each of the previous five seasons.
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“They’ve always had a good group of girls here,” said McKenzie, who had previously served as an assistant with the program. “So I was excited to be the one to take on that challenge to bring the greatness out in them.”
Another new face to the program that has been critical to its revival is Rachael DeMarcus, a junior who transferred from Lexington Christian. McKenzie called her “the best setter hands down” in Lexington.
“The hitters that were already here, with the talent that she has, she’s able to bring out the potential in them,” McKenzie said.
DeMarcus was determined to help change how Bryan Station was perceived by other teams in the area. So far, so good.
“Everybody views us different,” DeMarcus said. “‘Oh, it’s Station. ... We have to actually play our game. It’s not just gonna be an easy cakewalk.’”
Station will have a shot at ending two six-year droughts at the end of the season: it goes to Lexington Christian on Oct. 11 and hosts Lexington Catholic in its regular-season finale on Oct. 13.
The biggest sign of change at Station would be earning a match win over one of the other four public city teams, something it hasn’t done since a 2-0 sweep of Lafayette in 2003. It’s already lost to three of the four but hosts Paul Laurence Dunbar on Oct. 4.
Regardless of when that elusive intercity win comes, it’s hard not to be impressed with the quick turnaround, which includes two tournament championship victories and a No. 2 seed when the 42nd District Tournament gets underway next month.
A trio of freshmen — D’syaa Fergerson, Taylor Goodwin and Samantha Walton — play big minutes for Station. Only three seniors — Shelby McLean, Madison Patton and Nicole Smith — will depart come May.
McKenzie will be sad to see them go, but she’s glad they’re getting to end their careers on a positive note.
“Just watching them enjoy winning is really key to what we’re building this year,” McKenzie said. “For them to get that sense of pride and confidence in themselves is really something special.”
In the offseason, Station will implement training and conditioning programs it lacked in prior years. That’ll keep the Defenders’ stock rising.
“They desire it,” McKenzie said. “Next year we’re gonna be 10 times better.”
Note: An earlier version of this story reported that Bryan Station had defeated Lexington Christian this season. The two teams play on Oct. 11.
Bryan Station volleyball
2016 wins (23): Franklin Co., Paintsville, Shelby Valley, East Ridge, Pikeville, South Laurel, Scott Co., Sayre, Powell Co., Berea, Garrard Co., Perry Co. Central, East Jessamine, Woodford Co., East Carter, Montgomery Co., Bath Co., Bourbon Co., East Carter, Harrison Co., Bourbon Co., Montgomery Co., Sayre.
2016 losses (5): Tates Creek, Raceland, Henry Clay, Lafayette, Madison Central.
Record previous five seasons: 2015 (8-21), 2014 (14-21), 2013 (7-25), 2012 (6-16), 2011 (11-14).