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There’s not much left for North Oldham volleyball to accomplish that the team hasn’t already done the last two years.
The Lady Mustangs cruised to the District 29 and Region 8 titles last year before falling to Mercy in the state semifinals. Two seasons ago North won the district and region crowns and also went to the state semis, where it lost to Greenwood.
Two straight state semifinal trips have made the Lady Mustangs a popular choice to make another run. North is ranked No. 5 in the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll, making it the only public school ranked in the top six.
Defending state champ Assumption is ranked No. 1 followed by Mercy, Notre Dame, Sacred Heart, North and Louisville Holy Cross.
“In the past, our name hasn’t been that well-known,” junior Layne Bacon said. “Now teams are starting to recognize us more, especially Catholic teams.”
The Lady Mustangs have been to three state tournaments in coach Brian Jones’ tenure and have established themselves as the program to beat in Region 8. Therefore, high preseason hopes have become the standard around Lady Mustang volleyball, senior Hailey Foote said.
“After finishing in the semifinals in the state level twice that set the bar pretty high for us,” Foote said. “Hopefully we can meet those expectations.”
The team will need big production from underclassmen in order to meet those goals.
Foote and Marley Turner are the team’s only seniors. Juniors Bacon, Mikaela Beyea and Taylor Glenn also have leadership roles.
“I expected (the ranking) because we’ve been working really hard in the preseason,” Beyea said. “I think we deserve that spot.”
Behind that group are several young players Jones believes have plenty of talent.
Sarah Snyder, a sophomore drawing Division-I college interest, will be one of North’s star players. Sophomore Casey Foote, freshman Ryan Foote and eighth grader Gabby Roberts will also see varsity time.
Having depth spread over five grades is a good sign for the Lady Mustangs’ ability to sustain themselves as annual contenders, Turner said.
“These girls, you can tell every single day when they come in, they look up to us so much,” Turner said. “You can just tell, they take everything we say and do and apply it inside and outside of volleyball.”
North opened its season 2-2, beating Louisville Holy Cross and Ashland Blazer but losing to Paul Laurence Dunbar and Christian Academy-Louisville. A game played Wednesday against Male ended after the Era’s press deadline.
“Knowing the talent that this team has and knowing where we should go this year, those two losses are very disappointing to me,” Jones said. “But I think it’ll be huge in the long run because they need to know teams aren’t going to roll over for them.
“Even if you’re preseason No. 5 in the state, you’ve got to work to be better.”
The Lady Mustangs will still have to deal with quality programs across town at Oldham County and South Oldham if they’re to make it back to the state tournament.
South boasts a collection of upperclassmen, while Oldham has already notched wins over Lexington Catholic and Greenwood, among others.
But should North get through those teams and make it back to state, Hailey Foote said she hopes the Lady Mustangs can stick around a little longer this time.
“I would hope to make it farther than the semifinals since we did that the last two years,” Foote said. “Hopefully we can improve and maybe take a state final.”