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Oldham County schools have dominated Region 8 volleyball since regions were redrawn in 2003.
North Oldham, Oldham County or South Oldham has won the region every year since that time, with OC taking the crown last season.
With OC and North both in the preseason top 15 and South getting better, South coach Amy Grimm expects that District 29 dominance to continue in 2014.
“Of course the three best teams in our region are in Oldham County,” Grimm said. “It’s North, South and OC every year.
“So that makes it tough because you know you have the hardest road to even get out of district.”
Former North coach Brian Jones moved on this offseason to an assistant coaching job at Union College.
After losing its coach to a college, North turned to the college ranks to find Jones’ replacement, Brett Versen.
Versen, a former star player at Ohio State, had been serving as an assistant at James Madison.
His first Lady Mustang team was 3-2 going into a game at Male that was played Wednesday night after the Era’s press deadline.
“There are sets and points where we’ve played great and we’ve done some really good things and then there’s some times when we’ve really kind of taken a break, taken it easy,” Versen said. “We’re 3-2 and we should be 3-2.
“That’s really kind of how we’ve played. There are good things but the season’s still young and there’s a lot to work on and get better at.”
North, ranked No. 13 in the preseason Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association poll, features three seniors – defensive specialist Layne Bacon, libero Mikaela Beyea and setter Taylor Glenn.
“I think Mikaela’s done a really good job of taking over and owning that libero position,” Versen said. “She’s our steady passer back there.”
Junior Sarah Snyder is the team’s primary middle hitter.
Juniors Casey Foote and Jennifer Rebbin and sophomores Ryan Foote and Brooke Hammons all have various roles in the rotation.
“I think Ryan Foote’s been playing really well,” Versen said. “We’re asking her to do a lot.
“We’re asking her to swing, we’re asking her to set. I think she’s been one of our best servers back there as well… She’s kind of upped her game and we need everybody to bring the same mentality and attitude.”
OC won’t be taking anyone by surprise this season.
Last year the Lady Colonels upset two-time defending state semifinalist North in the Region 8 championship. They advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to Mercy.
This year OC is expected to get back to state, ranked No. 10 in the preseason by the KVCA.
The Lady Colonels have handled those expectations well so far, taking a 4-0 record into a home match Thursday night against Ballard.
“We’ve told all the girls to pretty much expect that target on your back all year long,” coach Vince McDonough said. “They’ve walked into this ever since the season ended last year knowing that they want to go back to that state tournament.
“…For the most part we feel like we can be a top 10 team all year long.”
OC has six seniors on this year’s squad including its captains, setter Jenna Grantz and outside hitter Myah Underwood.
Defensive specialists Shelby Johnson and Danielle McCarson, outside hitter Abby Padgett and setter Abby Sheehan make up the rest of the senior class.
“Most of those seniors were in the starting lineup last year,” McDonough said. “I feel like we’ve got probably more than just one leader on this team.”
OC also has a Division-I commitment in junior outside hitter Kelsey Miller, who committed to Virginia this summer.
Miller and McCarson both played on high-performance junior teams this summer. Miller has a good shot at first or second-team all-state honors this year, McDonough said.
“She’s strong in every facet of the game,” McDonough said. “She’s just so skilled and has tremendous athletic ability and is just a very smart player.”
South found itself in an unfamiliar position last year, finishing third in District 29.
A young Lady Dragon team is out to get back to the region tournament this year, Grimm said.
“That’s exciting from a coach’s perspective because you can see that growth happen in front of you,” Grimm said of her South team that features just two seniors, defensive specialist Rebecca Cloutier and setter Logan Stuart. “I’ve seen it a lot, even just since the beginning of the season.
“It’s exciting to watch that growth and it’s happening, so hopefully it continues to happen at a consistent rate.”
South has three juniors on its roster – outside hitter Abbey Hall and middle hitters Sloane Schauer and Addy Tonn.
After that the Lady Dragons will rely on four sophomores and four freshmen listed on the varsity roster.
South’s young team must negotiate a tough schedule that includes preseason top 25 teams North, OC, Male, Eastern, Christian Academy-Louisville, Presentation and Tates Creek.
The Lady Dragons will also play in the prestigious Louisville Volleyball Invitational Tournament Sept. 12-13.
“A lot of the game of volleyball is muscle memory, so the same footwork every time, the same arm swing every time,” Grimm said. “With a young team we’re trying to build that.
“They’re thinking through a lot of things right now. Hopefully as the season progresses they’ll think less and hopefully just play more.”
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