2018 will be a new transition for the Burgin Lady Bulldogs volleyball team, but that is nothing new.
Rick Stewart will take over a program that has had three different coaches in as many years.
“A few years ago, I was the junior varsity coach, but this is my first head coaching job at any level,” said Stewart. “Last year, we did a revamp of everything. This year, it’s a revamp of a revamp. We have four seniors and one of them is playing volleyball for the first time. There is a lot of young, new talent on our roster this season.”
Last year, Burgin was led by three seniors: Autumn Ransdell, Miranda Hungate and Savanah Burke. Stewart talked about what a big loss that was and what those players left behind for this young, up and coming program.
“It’s really hard to replace seniors and leaders like that because they were the core group of our team last year,” he said.
Ransdell and Hungate have graduated, but have come back on as mentors to help this very young team this season.
“Having them here helps a lot because of their varsity experience when they were student-athletes here,” said Stewart. “What helps with the mentor program is that they’re able to answer questions and provide leadership if I’m not on the court because they’ve been through these situations. They are really able to help out in that aspect.”
Listed below is the full Burgin volleyball roster, separated by grade.
Seniors: Katelyn Stewart, Cheyenne Clark, Chelsea Lewis and Kelsey Sharp.
Sophomores: Hannah Stewart and Lara Burke.
Freshmen: Grace Cocanaugher, Kiera Propes, Brynn Simpson, Shelbi Barnette, Alexus Stratton, Cassey Schollser, Miracle Spencer and Kaylee McCray.
8th grade: Kadein Lewis and Raegan Day.
6th grade: Sammy Martin.
Stewart has a lot of newcomers on the team who are new to the game, but hopes they will catch on quickly and provide quality varsity minutes. He talked about having an experienced and vocal leader, his daughter Katelyn Stewart, to lead the way.
“She has five years of experience. She is the only one on our team that has played that long,” he said. “She has become the leader we need when it comes to showing the other girls the ropes, answering questions and things of that nature. It really helps having that type of leadership on our team. There is a lot of questions that I don’t have to answer every time.”
Stewart hopes Katelyn Stewart’s leadership rubs off on the other seniors on and off the court.
“The way you walk, the way you talk. All that stuff. How you handle yourself as a team and respect others is a big thing,” he said. “Treating others with respect is one of the biggest things for me. We’re a team on and off the court. At school, during lunch, I want them to sit at the same table and develop a relationship that will translate on to the court. I want them to really understand the aspect of a ‘team’ and not just saying it. I really want my seniors to rub off on everybody else in that aspect.”
Stewart knows it will be a tough task to get Burgin to the level of one of the best teams in the state in their district, the West Jessamine
“The neat thing that I’ve experienced is when I started assistant coaching a few years ago, the same group of student-athletes were on the team year-by-year until they graduated. To see that set of players grow up and play together as seniors is something I want to build here. The biggest thing about this team that I want to stress is that everybody knows their role,” said Stewart. “If you’re a hitter, then you hit. If you’re a hitter and not a blocker, don’t try to block. A lot of them, because they’re new, we need to find out what they are going to be and what they are going to do for our team. Once we get that established and into a rotation, things will run a lot smoother.”
Stewart is excited for this challenge and hopes everybody comes out and supports the Lady Bulldogs this volleyball season.
“This season, we’re very excited because we have a lot of new players as well as renovating our home gym. We painted the gym, added a new logo, will be getting a new floor soon and a new net,” he said. “Everything is going to be new, it’s going to be fun.”
The Lady Bulldogs open their season on Thursday, August 9, when they travel to Sayre.
Burgin’s first home game will be on Thursday, August 16, when they host Danville Christian at 6 p.m.