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With six seniors back and a strong group of experienced underclassmen to join them, Nelson County hopes this is the year to regain control of the district and make a big postseason run.
“Our goal is to win state,” said senior Kristen Curtsinger. “We have a lot of seniors. We’re all wanting to finish our last season strong.”
A year ago, the Cardinals’ season ended in gut-wrenching fashion. First, a 20-18 loss to Bethlehem in the fifth set of the 19th District championship. That was followed by a difficult five-set loss to eventual state quarterfinalist Green County in the first round of the 5th Region tournament.
Coach Curt Scifres said “90 percent” of his squad played club ball in the offseason, which has helped create continuity. Nelson County enjoyed solid play in camp and the Bluegrass State Games, and that’s led to an air of optimism for the Cardinals’ chances.
“They’re motivated,” he said, “they’re hungry.”
The Cardinals return everybody, for the most part, but the only loss was a big one. Brianna Harman’s athletic presence on the front line was a mainstay for several years, and her absence leaves a big hole to fill.
“Life without Brianna is going to be an adjustment for any program,” Scifres said of Harman, who suits up for Campbellsville University this year.
“It’s going to be different because we did lose a big leader,” Curtsinger said.
But with Harman last year’s lone senior, that means there was plenty of playing time to go around for underclassmen. Curtsinger said the team as a whole is more advanced than usual at the beginning of a season, and everybody knows her role, which will help filling the hole left behind by Harman.
“Things are starting to click a lot easier,” she said.
Seniors Kaylen Runner and Madison Higgs will help key the defense, while classmates Stevie Vincent and Taylor Martin operate along the front line.
Scifres said his front line is underclassmen-heavy, but nerves shouldn’t be a problem. Juniors Whitney White and Brooklyn Greer are the middle blockers, as is sophomore Kira Harman, who got playing time alongside her sister last year.
“We’re young in hitting, but they got a lot of experience playing last year,” he said.
Senior libero Alyssa Graham anchors the defense and is a key vocal leader for the team along with Curtsinger.
“It’s a mental game and we have to have leaders,” Graham said. “We keep everybody up. Me and Kristen feed off each other and everybody else feeds off us.”
Scifres has had some injury troubles on the roster — Higgs is nursing an ankle injury and Martin broke her hand in a car accident — that has slowed the process some. He’s banged-up too, having undergone knee surgery in May, leaving him largely immobile while assistant Keyata Harman runs practices.
“I don’t know what would happen to the program if she hadn’t been around,” Scifres said.