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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Tigers want to take next step

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Bardstown volleyball preview

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Now entering coach Felicia Sanchez’s sixth year in charge of the Bardstown volleyball program, the Tigers want this year to be the one where they take that next big step.

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“I think this is definitely the year for Bardstown,” said Sanchez, whose Tigers have turned in three straight winning seasons after going 0-21 her first season at the helm. “We’re hoping to get that first district championship and region tournament appearance. That’s the only thing we’ve been focusing on since July 15. We feel strongly that this is our year.”

There’s good reason for optimism, beyond just three straight winning seasons. The Tigers won their first-ever district tournament match last year, and they return eight seniors and suffered no graduation losses.

So far, Sanchez has enjoyed what she’s seen in preseason practice and scrimmages. The team chemistry is good, and the returning experience has the Tigers working on more advanced drills and plays than what is the norm at the beginning of a season.

“We’re looking to pick up where we left off last year,” she said. “We jumped right in.”

It’s a big difference from years ago, when the current senior group was middle-schoolers just getting to know a new coach. Bardstown volleyball has come a long way, front line anchor Kay Kay Odom said.

“It was slow; it was hectic,” she said. “We didn’t know what we were doing.”

That’s not the case now. Odom said the team has built upon what it has learned each year, which led to a more cohesive squad.

“You have to feel confident with each other,” she said. “We can talk to each other.”

Senior Leandra Cosby, the Tigers’ top server and vocal leader, said it’s the best chemistry she’s seen since she joined the squad in middle school, and it should lead to success.

“We’re all like a unit now,” she said. “We all want the same thing.”

With such an experienced squad, Sanchez has been able to add more wrinkles into the game plan. Plus, the Tigers have shown themselves to be a versatile bunch, with everybody able to play multiple positions. Club ball has drawn more players as well, which has led to an improved roster.

“We’re starting to get more confidence with playing different positions,” Cosby said. “Now, it’s to the point the hard stuff has become easy.”

Odom will key the attack, with everything funneling through senior setter Alexis Greenwell. Fellow seniors Caresha Allen, Emily Hardin and Morgan Milburn will all play key roles, as will Bre Maddox, who anchors the defense from the libero spot.

There are some key underclassmen pushing the seniors, such as lone junior Elaine Bischoff, sophomore Kelsey Thompson and freshman Sherelle Smith, who Sanchez said “blends right in” with the seniors.

Bardstown still faces big obstacles in the 19th District in traditional kingpins Bethlehem and Nelson County, who have met in the championship game each of the past five years. But the Tigers feel like they have the pieces in place to break through.

“We’re here to go to region,” Odom said.

“That’s our main goal,” Cosby added.