‘Anybody's ball game' as teams reload

There is no doubt Lexington lost some big-name volleyball talent last season.

But just because some top talent is gone doesn't mean there's not plenty still available, city coaches say.

“We're all rebuilding for sure,” Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe said. “But our area's not hurting.”

Grupe's team, which advanced to the semifinals of the state volleyball tournament last season, lost four star players with more than 12 years of varsity experience between them.

But the Devils return a core of veteran players, such as kills leader Annalee Abell, and a lot of young talent.

Henry Clay is ranked No. 11 in the pre-season coaches' poll, and Grupe said his team has potential to do big things again this season as well.

“We've got the potential to be as good as we were last year,” said Grupe, who has six seniors competing for starting spots with a junior, two sophomores and a freshman.

But he will be the first to tell you that his players aren't the only young talent around. He pointed to district rivals Lafayette, Paul Dunbar and Tates Creek as all stocked with good players.

All four teams advanced to the quarterfinals of the Blue Grass State Games this month against some top competition from around the state.

“Looking at that, I'd say it's wide open,” Grupe said. “I do believe we're the four teams to watch in the area.”

The other coaches agreed.

“Everybody's kind of in a rebuilding year, but it's anybody's ball game,” said Dunbar Coach Jenni Morgan, who lost seven seniors from last year's 11th Region finalist. “This year more than any year because everybody has a lot of young talent.”

In a fast-paced, momentum-based game like volleyball, it's going to be about whose young talent is able to jell the fastest.

Coach Megan Filburn at Tates Creek is eager to see how it will all play out by season's end.

“Across the board, everybody's going to be pretty competitive this year, so I wouldn't say there's just one team that we're gunning for,” she said. “We're all looking at each other. Everybody's looking at what each other's bringing to the table right now.”

There are other question marks, such as Lexington Christian and Bryan Station, which both have new coaches coming in but a lot of raw talent.

Lexington Christian returns a core group of veteran players, including star Blair Barnhart, and it is hoping to sneak up on some of the bigger schools in the region.

The district wins and losses will come for everyone, the coaches agreed, but it's hard to predict who will come out on top this season, Lafayette Coach Chris Langston said.

“I don't know if the best team in the city is going to show itself until the end of the season,” he said. “We'll all have to wait and see.”