Darren Doyle, story and photo
If you've never been part of high school volleyball team, whether it be as a player, coach, parent, official, or avid fan, your knowledge of the highly competitive sport is at best, minimal. And that minimal knowledge probably comes from beach volleyball, or back yard get-togethers. Some of you may even remember games and tourneys from the iconic Little Dipper Restaurant in Chalybeate, which if you born in 1990 or after, you have no idea what I'm talking about.
I'll skip all the complicated rules and regulations, but just know this: it's a big deal, and it's a heckuva lot harder than it looks. I can say it's truly been a pleasure covering Lady Cat Volleyball this year, not just because of the fine group of young ladies that make up the team, but also the parents, the coaching staff, the relentless work of the booster club, the athletic director, and school administration.
This team currently sits with a record of 24-9, which ranks 5th right now in school history, going back 15 years. Why is that such a big deal? Because it's usually difficult for Edmonson County Athletics to regularly do well and stay competitive. That's not a put-down, either. As a former ECHS athlete that played sports from 90-94, we had some talented athletes on various teams, some very good coaches, (also some not so good), but the problem was that most other schools we played were much larger, had more income, and simply had better opportunities to be good teams, which has remained true up until now, where teams have been re-districted, and re-regioned in order to allow more smaller schools like EC to compete with other comparable schools.
Now don't get me wrong, ECHS has had very good teams in the past with most all sports, it's just difficult for every single EC sport to remain competitive year after year, even in smaller districts and regions.
A win tonight for the Lady Cats will bring ECHS their 5th district title in 15 years. How good is that? Well, boys basketball hasn't done it since 1993, (ahem, a team I was on...) and Lady Cat basketball hasn't done it since 1998.
The Lady Cats will definitely have their hands full tonight because they play long-time foe Whitesville Trinity at their dreaded "barn" tonight for the title. Why is that hard? Well, it's always harder playing your opponent on their home turf, but now, you have to add the atmosphere, which is literally a metal barn that doesn't have air conditioning, and a very hostile environment led by the school's student section.
The other factor? The Lady Cats have owned Trinity this year, something that they've never done. They've defeated them 4 out of 4 times this year, but 5 in a row is a very difficult task for any team and sport, especially on the road.
Some would say that the team's accomplishments even shine a bit brighter having a new head coach, one with no head coaching experience coming into this season.
"Our game plan is to simply play our game," said Sullivan. "We're used to playing in these environments. To win the district as a first year coach would be nice, but really, it's all about these girls and what they get out of playing the game."
The Lady Cats have proven to be a resilient team in 2015 and have the title in their sights.
"I do expect us to come out on top with a huge win," said Senior Morgan Miller. "It's the same match up as last year's championship game, however this year, the winner's going to be different. We've worked our butts off this entire season, all for tonight."
Senior Morgan Skaggs said it was a blessing to simply be in the title game. "I couldn't be more excited to have a chance to be district champs with my other seniors and go out in the best ways possible."
"Our volleyball team has had a tremendous season so far and seems to be playing well at the right time of year," said Athletic Director Kyle Pierce. "We've won a Class A Region and we've won 24 games this year. We've already punched a ticket in next week's regional tournament that we're hosting, so that's out of the way. Now this group of girls wants to win a district championship, and it's within reach."
Drawings for the 3rd Region tournament held at ECHS next week will take place tomorrow. We'll keep you posted on games and times.
The District 12 championship final is tonight at Trinity High School. Scheduled start time is 6pm.