Local volleyball will be strong as always

The Southwestern High School volleyball team had another outstanding season in 2019, but anything short of a regional is not the norm fro the powerful Lady Warrior program. Southwestern finished 2019 with a 29-10 record, a 48th District title and a 12th Region semifinal appearance.

Southwestern was knocked out of the 2019 region on their home court by West Jessamine.

"Losses are tough no matter who they are to or when they occur in your season, but our loss to West Jessamine on our home court in the semifinals of region had to be our toughest loss in the 2019 season," stated Southwestern volleyball coach Melissa Gaunce. "We had a lot of things in our favor, but just came up a bit short against them."

Southwestern lost three players to graduation in Hanna Browning, Grace Taylor, and Sydney Wilson. However, the Lady Warriors will return a strong group of experienced and talented volleyball players in 2020.

"I have four seniors, Payton Brock (OH) Maddy Foster (S) Kami Wilson (L) and Leah Hollis (RS), that I feel will be huge key players on our team," Gaunce stated. "They have been playing together since middle school and they have great team chemistry. They're leaders on and off the court. All four of them have a competitive drive that makes them want to work hard and be the best they can be for their team. Since all four play different positions they will be on the court together nearly every play of every match. I expect their leadership and enthusiasm for the game to be what sets us apart from other teams this season."

"Emmie Vanover (M) is another player that I believe will help lead our team this year," Gaunce added. "She was second on our team last year with the most kills and dominated as a blocker. Emmie is a junior and has played varsity since her freshman year. She has continued to improve as a player and take on a leadership role when she's on the court. Katie Shaw (OH/DS) will also be an asset to our team this season. She was a defensive specialist on our team last season and will be a six rotation player this season."

Although the Lady Warriors fell short of winning another 12th Region title in 2019, they had the best record in the region and had many highlights throughout the season.

"Obviously, taking back the title of 48th District champion was a highlight, but I think if you asked my team what their most memorable moment was they would probably tell you it was beating Campbell County at the Bluegrass Invitational in Lexington," Gaunce recalled. "Campbell County is the team that kept us from advancing to the Final Four at the state tournament in 2018. They enjoyed the opportunity to prove to themselves that they could win against a team that went to the final four at state."

Of course the Lady Warriors would like to return to state tourney for their ninth time in program history, but Coach Gaunce is also hoping fro a safe and healthy season.

"Our goals for the 2020 season are to have a safe and healthy, and hopefully somewhat normal season," Gaunce exclaimed. "It's very early, but I believe our team has the potential to have a season where they could be both district and region champions if they put their mind to it. Our goal is for our season to end at Valley High School in Louisville, KY at the 2020 State Tournament."

Each year standing in the way of the Lady warriors in the 48th District and the 12th region is the powerful Wayne County Lady Cardinals program.

Wayne County downed Southwestern 3-1 late in the 2019 season, but fell to the Lady Warriors by the same score in the 48th District finals. The Lady Cards, then we eliminated early in the first round of the 12th Region tourney

"Well every loss is key loss, but hopefully a good learning opportunity,' stated Wayne County coach Sandra Baker. "But, I would have to say our loss to Pulaski County in the opening round of the 12th Region Tournament was a big one for us. It’s always a battle between our two squads and we had got the win earlier in the season. That loss was tuff as we had a group of 6 seniors that at been in the Region Championship the year before and we were going to try to make another run at it. PC had different plans and they had the better team that night."

Wayne County lost five seniors from last years team in Sara Gregory, Nicole Hesse, Elizabeth Pennycuff, Chloye Rice, and Annessa Roysdon. But former regional championship coach Sandra Baker has loads of talent returning in 2020.

"Junior Mallory Campbell is our only returning starter, playing in all 36 matches," Baker stated. "We expect a lot of things from her and need her varsity level experience to lead this young team. She is a great athlete and very versatile. She will be a big go to for us."

"Sophomore Addy Rice logged a ton of playing time last year and she was typically our first one of the bench," Baker said. "She even had a few starts. She has such a great IQ of the game. Like Mallory we are really going to depend on her varsity experience to lead this team. She is a threat both defensively and offensively."

"Junior Mariah Bowlin will step into the setter position," Baker added. "She played many different roles last year because we were solid in our setter position and she was to athletic to sit so we played her back row a lot. But Mariah is ready and has been patiently waiting and working hard for her opportunity to lead the team offensively as the setter. We expect her to step right into that role and do big things."

Also, Wayne County will look to these player to help out in their 20202 campaign: Elizabeth Wright – Junior; Sydney Alley – sophomore; Leslie Dodd – Senior; and Kennedy Keith – Junior

The 2019 had many highlights in the 2019 season which included winning the First Priority Lady Colonel Volleyball Classic, beating Southwestern to clinch the #1 District Seed for automatic bid to Region., Annessa Roysdon receiving 12th Region Player of the Year (first for Wayne County program),

Lady Cards making the 1029 All-Region Team were Sarah Gregory, Chloe Rice, and Macey Blevins.

The Lady Cardinals are just happy to finally be able to play and they hope they can make the most of the 2020 season.

"First and foremost we are hoping for the opportunity to play," Baker said. "Honestly with a global pandemic outlooks of certain things in life really change. With three seniors we want to do everything in our power to make sure they get their season. If we do, our goal is to play every day like it is our last because this year more than ever it could be. Would we love to Win a District Championship, yes. We would love to win the Region, but we understand that every game is important and every win will be special. I guess our main goal this 2020 season is simply 'Live in Each Moment'."

The Pulaski County Lady Maroons had another great season in 2019 with a 22-12 record, wining their eighth consecutive district title and a regional runner-up finish. But losing nine seniors, which included their all-time kill leader Peyton Randolph, the Lady Maroons will rely on newer talent to guide the 20120 program.

Seniors lost to graduation was Kaitlyn Combs, Nakay Murray, Jazmyn Oakes, Bailey Putteet, Peyton Randolph, Emily Simpson, Erinn Speaks, Madison Vacca, and Allee Wesley.

The Lady Maroons have a strong core of younger players ready to step up in 2020.

"Lyndsey Parmelee has been such a versatile player for us," Combs stated. "She has been a setter, a libero and hitter. She does what the team needs at the time and pushes everyone around her to be better. Molli Nelson continues to grow as a setter, she will be counted on this year to put points on the board as a hitter as well."

"Lindsey Horn has been a middle and right-side hitter for us through the last four years," Combs said. "We will be counting on her do dominate the net as a blocker this season as well. Abbey Burns has been working on being an aggressive server and improving her defensive game. Linsey Simpson is also gonna be called upon to play some front row and she and Abbey will also add some Senior leadership for this team."

"We have a talented group of younger players that are competing hard each day to challenge each other to be their best for our Team to progress," Combs said. "They are going to be thrown into the fire from the beginning and will experience some growing pains, but I am confident they will rise to the challenge. The attitudes and work ethic are fantastic and I am excited to watch their growth."

Staying health is the main priority for the 2020 Lady Maroons volleyball team.

"Our main goal is to remain safe and healthy during this uncertain time and to grow together as we take the unprecedented leap into this 2020 season," Combs stated. "I am proud to be a part of this team and I expect great things as we rise to the challenges ahead of us with the tenacity to achieve our goals."

After an early departure in the opening round of the 2019 district tourney the Somerset High School Lady Jumpers volleyball team looks for big things in 2020. The Lady Jumpers return their entire squad form last season.

"Trinity Burkett - Senior, Team Captain, Outside hitter, and back-row specialist - is our strongest all-around player, excellent leader for her team and is dedicated on and off the court," Somerset volleyball coach Rachel Lange stated. "She can put the ball down; her jump serve is consistent, and she is strong at the net. Her passing has improved the most in the off season and her vertical is up 2 inches. Trinity is a game changer, she inspires her teammates and opponents.

"Molly Loy - Senior, Team Co-Captain, Middle hitter - is our strongest middle hitter and good defender on the net. Molly helps lead her team with a positive mindset and makes the game fun for her team. Her vertical is up 2 inches from last season," Lange stated.

"Zoey Thompson - Senior, Team Co-Captain, Libero - gives 100 percent on the court, pushes her teammates to do the same," Lange said. "Zoey has improved her ability to read the ball and anticipate were she needs to be to execute the perfect pass for a faster tempo. She covers the block and hitter well. She knows what is takes to win on the court."

Emi Ford - Freshman, Setter - has excellent hands and can put the ball anywhere she wants on the court," Lange stated. "She has perfected her jump serve and passing. She is one of the better setters I have seen at her age. She knows the game, she loves the game and is a natural setter with good instincts. Emi’s vertical has improved the most, it is up 5 inches."

Abby Ford - Junior, Hitter - vertical is up 3 inches," Lange exclaimed. "She has worked hard off season at home. She can hit outside and right side, her serve is consistent, her passing has improved the most. Abby’s overall game has improved. She has a lot of heart and will outwork anyone."

Tori Smith - Junior, Backrow Specialist, Libero - is one of our top passers and servers," Lange explained. "Her work ethic is on point and she keeps her teammates up. Tori likes a challenge and plays good under pressure."

Bethanie Hampton - Junior, Outside hitter - can pass, hit and block well," Lange said. "Her vertical is up 1 inch. Bethanie has a calm way about her and can surprise you with a strong kill at the net. She moves well on defense.

Bailey Whitaker - Junior, Backrow specialist - moves quick on the court," Lange added. She is also one of our better passers. Bailey has perfected her Dive/roll and her jump serve. She is one to watch this year as she continues to improve."

"Areli Alverez, Sophomore, Right side hitter - Areli plays with a lot of grit and intensity. She has stepped up as a good right side hitter, she can pass, jump serve and set the ball well. Areli plays to win!

Mckayla Waters - Junior, Middle hitter - has stepped up to the role as one of our main varsity middle hitters," Lange continued. "Her vertical is the best on the team. She is an excellent blocker on the net and her hitting has improved the most this year."

Allie Todd, Madison Stambaugh, Emma Hawk, Lain Prather, Madison King, Bre Smith, Addi Langford, Kylie Whitaker, Emme Goforth, Serenity Haynes, Jazlynn Shadoan, Addison King, Tanner Rigney, Jaslyn Garrett, and Kate Presley will all play big roles off the bench for the Lady Jumpers in 2020.

"The biggest highlight of last season was the way this team came together as a family,' Lange explained. "They support each other on and off the court. Other highlights of last season included winning against teams like Casey & North Laurel at the Rockcastle Invitational Tournament and the overall improvement in our skills from the seasons before."

"Our main goal is to have a winning season and have fun while we win," Lange stated. "We have been working on a fast tempo game while being strong physically and mentally. All our players have reached their vertical jump goals to make up for height. This team is special, they enjoy putting in the work, they trust the process and most importantly they enjoy playing together."

With the loss of only one senior from last year's team, the Somerset Christian volleyball team looks fro a strong showing in their first season in the KHSAA league. Annalise Scott was the only senior on the 2019 Lady Cougars volleyball squad.

Again this season, the Lady Cougars will only have one senior in Camryn Wells. Juniors Alex Cunningham, Cassie York, and Emily Grippe will provide experience for the Lady Cougars line-up. Younger players looking to make an impact will be sophomore Sierra Barnett, freshman Addison Cunnagin and freshman Lauren Daniels. Three seventh-graders - Elisabeth Scott, Olivia Atwood, and Sophia Barnett - will look to be the future of the Lady Cougars' volleyball program.

And while the Lady Cougars will not compete in district or post-season play this year, they will compete against all the local schools - Pulaski County, Somerset, Southwestern and Wayne County.

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