Mercy, Sacred Heart, Presentation, North Oldham in top 10
The Assumption High School volleyball team lost seven seniors off last year’s squad that won the state championship, but as is custom the Rockets have reloaded.
Assumption features six players who have committed to NCAA programs and was the overwhelming choice for the No. 1 spot in the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason Top 25.
“I really like our team,” said coach Ron Kordes, who is entering his 28th season with the Rockets. “We have a really great influx of some younger kids … so I don’t know how quick we’ll get out of the gate. That remains to be seen. But I do like our potential.”
The high school volleyball season will open around Kentucky on Monday. The Rockets will host Brown at 7 p.m. Monday in their opener.
Kordes will lean on a quintet of seniors in libero Lexie Hamilton (University of Louisville commit), outside hitters Brooke Moore (Austin Peay), Jacqueline Askin (Bowling Green) and Ana Crockett (South Carolina-Aiken) and opposite hitter Anna Palmer (uncommitted).
Middle blocker Kayla Kaiser (Georgia Tech) and libero Payton Frederick (Western Kentucky) are top juniors.
Hamilton has the task of replacing Allie Gregory, an All-American who now is at the University of Florida.
“Allie was sort of our emotional leader of that group last year, so we do have a couple of key positions to replace,” Kordes said. “We’re working on getting that done.”
Here’s a look at other Louisville-area programs (note: several schools did not respond to a request for information):
* Beth Haven returns seniors Jessah Holsapple and Becca Sharp and sophomores Gabrielle Ellis, Kenzie Davis and Haley Skaggs from a team that finished 13-12 last season. Coach Phil Ellis said the Bearcats are shooting for the Kentucky Christian Athletic Conference state title this year.
* Butler (28-8) lost six seniors to graduation off last year’s team that reached the regional semifinals. This year’s top players will include senior middle blocker Gabby Griffin, junior setter Brittney Just, sophomore middle blocker Bethany Bowden and sophomore defensive specialist Kailey Campbell.
* Holy Cross (13-14) was the regional runner-up last season and returns six starters – seniors Beth Newton (middle blocker) Brittany Rickert (setter), Hannah Bickel (outside hitter) and Adyson Medley (libero), junior Halle Snyder (opposite hitter) and sophomore Sara Tino (outside hitter/middle blocker).
* No. 2 Mercy (31-8) lost to Assumption in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year and should be in contention once again under second-year coach Matt Thomerson. Four players have committed to colleges – seniors Isabel Salameh (Bellarmine), Kelly O’Neil (Arizona) and Maddie Lentz (Oakland) and junior Lauren Tharp (Kentucky). Mercy’s junior-varsity team was undefeated last year.
* North Bullitt (22-14) lost five seniors off last year’s team that won the 23rd District and reached the regional semifinals. New coach Keith Higgs said a lack of size is a concern for this year’s team, which will be led by junior outside hitter Christina Sewell, senior setter Lily Curtsinger, junior libero Megan Eskridge and senior defensive specialist Becca Vogt.
* Valley (3-30) hopes to improve behind a quartet of seniors – Tiarra Schueler, Jasmine Andrews, Keirstyn Fernandez and Morgan Pullen.
* Atherton (19-15) has one of its most experienced teams in Amanda Green’s nine years with the program, led by senior Moia Miller, juniors Alyssa McCormick, Elena Nunez and Dawson Kemme and sophomore Jenna McCauley.
* Ballard (21-14) returns a pair of strong juniors in setter Julia Oswald and outside hitter Taylor Floyd. Oswald led the Bruins in assists last year, and Floyd was the leader in kills.
* Brown (16-19) returns several players with varsity experience in senior setter Sammie Ashby, junior libero Morgan Flecke, junior middle hitter Sara Bishop, junior middle hitter Hannah Johnson, junior middle hitter Shelby Larson, senior outside hitter Tasia Brown and junior outside hitter Anna Williams.
* No. 18 Christian Academy (28-11) lost six starters from last year’s team that reached the regional semifinals and will lean on senior setter Lindsey Bray (Cedarville University commit), junior setter Hannah Wilhite and junior outside hitter Miranda Newton.
* Eastern (19-18) has a young team that will be led by senior defensive specialist Jesse Borgmann, junior middle blocker Tiara Rice-Lockett and sophomore middle blocker Skylar Boom.
* No. 16 Male (19-19) returns senior captain and defensive specialist Lexie Gatewood, who has committed to Georgetown College. Other top players are seniors Gabby Jenkins, Megan Solomon, Alyce Lane and Kamya Packer and sophomore setters Camryn Rich and Brenna Valsted.
* Manual (10-13) returns all of its starters from last season, including seniors Stacy Henley, Indigo Lemke, Leigh Nicholson, Jamie Macaluso, Haley Just and Sofia Labrecque. Junior libero Keely Boldin and sophomores Josie Grace-Mudd and Kiah Cox also will play key roles.
* Portland Christian (17-10) has a new coach in Bill Sircy, who will lean on seniors Abby Lynn, Ruth Ann Dye and Lindsey Siegel and juniors Madison Skees and Morgan Idleman.
* No. 8 Presentation (31-5) lost just two starters from last year’s team that won the All “A” Classic state title and reached the regional semifinals. Senior setter Jalen Story, senior middle blocker Cassie Jones and junior libero Jenna Story (Wright State commit) lead the Toppers.
* No. 3 Sacred Heart (33-7), the regional runner-up to Assumption last year, features a top contender for Miss Volleyball honors in senior outside hitter Paige Hammons (Florida commit) and a new coach in Brett Versen. Four other seniors are expected to contribute significantly – setter Nadia Dieudonne (Xavier commit), middle blocker Kaelin Gentile, defensive specialist Megan Crush and opposite hitter Lauryn Bennett. Setter Abigail Westenhofer (Saint Louis commit) is a top junior.
* Seneca (15-16) lost six seniors off last year’s team but looks to be competitive behind a trio of seniors – middle hitter Dominique Gordon, defensive specialist Sullivan Watson and outside hitter Shelby Stratford.
* Collins (19-19) returns a strong defense led by seniors Blair Nethery, Krysta Ethington and Kori Weaver. Senior Karolina Morris and juniors Julia Belcher and Nicole Belcher anchor the offense.
* First-year coach Kayla Koerber inherits a No. 9 North Oldham program that reached the state tournament quarterfinals and finished 26-13 last year. A trio of seniors lead the Mustangs – middle blocker Madison Clements (Trevecca Nazarene commit), defensive specialist Hannah Mosier and outside hitter Brooke Hammons. Junior middle blocker Gabby Roberts also returns.
* No. 19 Oldham County (24-16) is led by senior setter Kylie Cochran, who is entering her fourth year as a starter. Coach Vince McDonough is high on sophomore outside hitters Abby Shoulta and Sylvie Miller.
* Shelby County (9-20) will feature senior middle hitter Kelsey Billingsley and a strong junior class led by Melody Lane, Haley Vermillion and Hailey Lafollette.
* South Oldham (13-17) looks to improve behind senior Myah Morton and juniors Sam Clark and Lexi Bowlden. Clark is returning from an ACL tear suffered last season.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
* Defending state champion: Assumption.
* Season begins: Monday.
* District tournaments begin: Oct. 17.
* State tournament: Nov. 4-6 at Valley High School.
* Preseason Top 25 (from Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association): 1. Assumption, 2. Mercy, 3. Sacred Heart, 4. Henry Clay, 5. Notre Dame, 6. Paul Dunbar, 7. Tates Creek, 8. Presentation, 9. North Oldham, 10. Ryle, 11. Cooper, 12. St. Henry, 13. Owensboro Catholic, 14. Greenwood, 15. Newport Central Catholic, 16. Male, 17. Scott, 18. Christian Academy, 19. Oldham County, 2 0. Apollo, 21. McCracken County, 22. Central Hardin, 23. Henderson County, 24. Beechwood, 25. Lexington Catholic.