• By Thomas Mims, Sport Writer

WCHS Season Preview: Volleyball

Heading into her sixth season as the Woodford County High School volleyball coach, Meghan Bottom already knows this year’s team is special. “This is the scrappiest Woodford team I’ve coached … they find a way to rally back regardless of the opponent,” says Bottom. That scrappiness was on display at the Bluegrass State Games (BSG) when the team came out as winners of the third division with a 9-2 record. Bottom says her team, “Showed a lot of heart and fight during the Bluegrass State Games as they adapted easily to changes in lineups based on the team’s needs. This willingness to put the team’s needs ahead of individual wants shows a winning attitude,” she says. That attitude permeates throughout the program, starting with senior captain Evelyn Milburn and her fellow captain, junior Piper McCoun. Those two, Bottom says, will be the players the team turns to for energy and encouragement. Of her leadership, McCoun says she’s focused on being a steady prescence. “I feel I bring a lot of consistency to this team ... It’s easy to get super frantic in volleyball, so I’ve focused on remaining calm and moving on to new plays. That mentality is something I try to spread to the rest of the team.” Regardless of who holds the title of captain, this year’s volleyball Jackets expect everyone to play an important part in the team’s overall success. “Our team is built on the philosophy that every player has to contribute for our team to be successful,” says Bottom, “No player is more important to the team’s success than another as each teammate has a role to play.” Those roles aren’t limited to the court either. Every player is expected to encourage one another and lift each other up. As for style of play, this year’s group will be defensive-oriented. Juniors Legend Burgess and Devan Champion performed well at the BSG, dominating around the net as blockers. The pair will be relied upon throughout the season to perform well in their middle hitter positions and set that defensive tone. “We talk about being a defensive team all the time,” McCoun says, “Focusing on getting our defense tight is crucial this year, especially with the teams we’ll be competing with.” Woodford County is an experienced team. Ten of the 15 players on the roster are either seniors or juniors, but there will be opportunities for the younger players to step up. One player with a chance to do just that is sophomore Justice Mudd. Mudd had not played as an outside hitter beyond the freshman competition level but was pressed into action at the position after an injury sidelined a starter. Bottom says Mudd filled the spot admirably and “shows a lot of potential as an aggressive server, passer and hitter.” The schedule is packed with games stretching from Aug. 20’s season opener to an Oct. 17 match with Western Hills before district tournament play. This season the Lady Jackets will play in three tournaments. The first being the Boyle County Invitational Aug. 23 and 24. A couple of weekends after that, Woodford will host the Woodford County Invitational Sept. 6 and 7. The last in-season tournament of the year takes place Sept. 27 and 28 at Lafayette. As regular readers of the Sun’s sports section know, Woodford County moves to the 8th Region and 30th District this season. With it come new challenges, but Bottom says her team is looking forward to playing against those fresh faces. Martha Layne Collins High School won the district last season on the strength of a 25-10 record, but it can be expected that the Lady Titans will take a step back after losing seven seniors to graduation and making a coaching change. Woodford and Collins meet on Sept. 11 for the first of the teams’ two scheduled meetings. On a regional scale, the teams to beat are clear. North Oldham and Oldham County have met in the 8th Region championship game every year since 2013. Following their win in 2018, North Oldham’s Lady Mustangs have claimed five straight region championships at the expense of Oldham County. The last year North didn’t win a region championship, the Lady Mustangs finished as runners-up to Oldham. Knocking off either team would be a surprise for the Lady Yellow Jackets, not because the Lady Jackets aren’t capable, but because Woodford isn’t scheduled to play either school. Such a matchup would have to come in the region tournament. No matter who Woodford plays or when, Coach Bottom’s message is clear. The mission for Woodford County volleyball in 2019 is simply to focus on what can be controlled. All coach asks of her team is that they come ready to work, continually support each other, communicate and play with energy. Ultimately though, it’s up to the players. “Coach Bottom tells us it’s our choice,” says Burgess, “It’s our choice if we want it or we don’t. We do a bunch of drills where we can’t get out of the drill until we complete it the right way, which forces us to be ready. We might not like it, but it’s what helps us.” No matter where they go this season, the plan is for the Lady Yellow Jackets to bring that focus and work ethic with them. If they do that, they’ve made the right choice.

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