Senior middle hitter Ashley McCullough is expected to figure prominently on offense and defense for the volleyball Lady Eels.
By ANDY MCCAMMON
With a new-look offense and a strong contingent of seniors, members of the Clay City Lady Eels hope to reverse what has become a frustrating pattern over the past few years: Solid, winning volleyball during the regular season followed by an early exit in sectional play.
Clay City posted a 17-5 record in 2005 only to fall to perennial powerhouse Union in the first round of the Bloomfield Sectional. First-year Head Coach LuAnne Anderson said one of the team's primary goals is to go deep into the post-season-- preferably at the expense of the Bulldogs.
"We really want to make a strong run in the tournament, especially the seniors," she said. "Ever since they were freshmen, Union has been the one to beat them."
This year's Lady Eels have experience on their side. Clay City didn't lose a single player to graduation, so the core of the '05 squad is still intact; current seniors Courtney Dayhuff, Chelsee Gerber, Melinda Jackson, Sarah Kennedy, Ashley McCullough, Kendra Roe and Brooklyn Wellman, as well as a seasoned crop of juniors, including multi-sport stand-out Angie Campe, form the backbone of the Lady Eels' varsity.
But the arrival of some new talent never hurt either. Anderson said freshman Kelly McCullough, the younger sister of 6'1" middle-hitter Ashley, will figure prominently in the varsity line-up, primarily as a right-side hitter.
Sophomores Megan Vansickle and Brittany Glass could also see considerable time with the varsity, she said.
One of the biggest pre-season challenges the Lady Eels will face will be adapting to their new coach's offensive philosophy. Anderson said she favors a "quick, fast-paced hitting style," a distinct adjustment for a number of her players.
"We're trying to speed up the game and throw off the defense," she said. "It requires a lot more concentration and thinking."
But, she added, "They're adapting well. It's been going really good so far."
Clay City will scrimmage with Shakamak tonight at 7 p.m. in Jasonville. Their first regular-season game will be a home contest Tuesday against arch-rival Union.
"That'll be a good measuring stick to see where we're at," Anderson said.