The Mercer County Lady Titans volleyball team lost three key members from last year’s team.
Janelle Taylor, Mariyah Sallee and Lisa Patel were all vocal leaders and also led by example.
Head Coach Lynn Flach says that the biggest challenge at the beginning of the season would be communication.
“Replacing seniors and leaders of that caliber that we had in Janelle, Mariyah and Lisa is extremely hard,” said Flach. “I truly have a very young team and right now, communication and talking on the court is one of our weaknesses. The core group of this team are juniors. One of our seniors, Tyanna Smith, has been doing a good job of talking to our younger players, but I need to get my juniors talking more as well.”
One of those juniors, Jaclyn Devine is one of the best returning plays not only on the team, but in the region and state as well.
“She’s (Devine) quiet, but she leads by example. Sometimes, she is too hard on herself. My goal this year is to get her to the point of not getting hard on herself, because when that happens, it brings the others down. It’s okay to not do everything perfect every time, just keep on playing, keep the team up and keep going,” said Flach. “This will be my third year with Jaclyn and I can honestly say that she is the most improved player. When she came in, she was all power and no control. A lot of her shots went out of bounds and into the net, and it took freshman year with me training her and telling her it’s not about power if you don’t have control. Now she’s got control. She’s lethal. Her serve is phenomenal. Now, sometimes her serve still goes out of bounds or into the net, but her consistency is on another level from last year. Her all-around game has improved a ton since last year and in her time as a varsity player. Her knowledge on the court and what to do in different situations has also improved. She’s grown so much.”
Volleyball is Devine’s only sport, playing it year-round, so her improvement year-by-year is something the younger players can look to. West Jessamine has a club team for their players only, but made an exception for Devine, letting her play with them, and it helped her a lot coming into this year.
“She gained a lot of good playing time and ended up being one of the best players on the team in all aspects of the game,” said Flach.
Another experienced player, junior Brinkley Prewitt, saw a lot of varsity time as a sophomore and is expected to contribute in a big way this season. Prewitt’s toughness in softball translates over to the volleyball court and that is big for a young squad.
Listed below is the full Mercer County volleyball roster, separated by grade.
Seniors: Tamara Bartleson and Tyanna Smith.
Juniors: Hayley Shyrock, Maddie Nichols, Jaclyn Devine, Zoë Yeast, Kaylynn Jones and Brinkley Prewitt.
Sophomores: Kendall Edelen, Bella Perkins, Harlee Settles, Kiera Marcum, Laney Bast and Alley Sullivan.
Freshmen: Alexis Jones, Lydia Freeman, Ashlyn Cheek, Elle Prewitt, Haven Six, Cady Shackleford, Salena Cox and Rylee Freeman.
8th grade: Madisynn Griffin, Jamesyn White, Jai Maria Piazza, Kayleigh White and Taylor Murphy.
Tamara Bartleson is the other senior on the squad that Flach is looking for to step into a leadership role.
“Tamara is doing a very good job and is starting to talk a lot more on the court. I told her that her main job this year is leadership out on the court,” said Flach.
There are a lot of young players on the team, as Flach mentioned, and a lot of them are expected to provide quality varsity minutes this season.
Some of the younger players that are expected to make an impact are Haven Six, Selena Cox and Lydia Freeman.
“Haven (Six) is the other player that played with Jaclyn on the West Jessamine club team and she experienced some varsity minutes last season. She is going to be a really good player. She’ll make freshman mistakes, but she will start varsity. She just continues to improve and grow each day,” said Flach. “Another freshman that will see a lot of time is Salena (Cox). Both Haven and Salena are both setters, but are versatile enough to be moved around to any position on the court. They can both hit and pass the ball very well. They are the total package. Lydia, who is also a freshman, has the skill and ability to become a very good player. This is only her second year playing volleyball, so the more experience she gets, the better she will be.”
Flach also talked about one of her sophomores that are expected to contribute.
“Harlee (Settles) is not a power player, but she is very consistent. She’s never going to give me the hard hits or serves, but she is always there, gets it over and in and that’s just as important as hitting it hard,” she said.
Flach said she hasn’t changed her game plan this season because a lot of these kids know what to expect.
“For the most part, conditioning and discipline is all the same. I have a good system. The kids know it and it works. It all takes care of itself because they know that this is what the deal is, and if they don’t do it, there will be consequences to that,” she said. “It’s been kind of nice, because I’ve not really had to be on them as much, because they know what to expect and what my expectations are for this team.”
Flach took over the middle school volleyball program two years ago, and treats the middle school like the high school varsity team.
“I implement the same discipline and conditioning there, so when they make it to the high school level, there is not that big of an adjustment. From sixth grade on, they now know the expectations and that makes it a lot easier,” she said.
Flach knows her team is young, and knows that West Jessamine sets the bar in the district.
“We are not going to have the overall blocking and hitting power like we did last year. Defense, hustle and consistency of hitting holes on the court are what’s going to be our key to winning games. I don’t have a middle blocker like I did with Janelle (Taylor) and Mariayah (Sallee), so we have rearranged our whole entire offense around what I do have and where our strengths are,” said Flach.
The Lady Titans will be playing at one away tournament this season. They will travel to Rockcastle County to play in the Rockcastle Tournament on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 7-8.
Mercer County opens their season on Thursday, August 9, when they host the Pulaski County Lady Maroons with a junior varsity and varsity double-header starting at 6 p.m.
Pictured above is the 2018 Mercer County volleyball team. Pictured L to R: Amelia Ellis (manager), Tamara Bartleson, Alexis Jones, Madisynn Griffin, Lydia Freeman, Ashlyn Cheek, Kendall Edelen, Hayley Shyrock, Elle Prewitt, Maddie Nichols, Haven Six, Jamesyn White, Jaclyn Devine, Tyanna Smith, Zoë Yeast, Cady Shackleford, Kaylynn Jones, Bella Perkins, Harlee Settles, Kiera Marcum, Jai Maria Piazza, Kayleigh White, Laney Bast, Salena Cox, Brinkley Prewitt, Rylee Freeman, Taylor Murphy, Alley Sullivan and Shelby Baker (manager). (Photo by Arpan Dixit)