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West tops East in volleyball clash, stretches win streak to 6

By Brian Rickerd

Contributing writer

West Jessamine volleyball is coming off a Final 8, State Tournament appearance in 2016, and coach William Bird’s Colts are showing no signs of slowing down this time around.

The latest example was a 3-0 (25-8, 25-10, 25-17) win over host East Jessamine Tuesday night that improved Bird’s team to 13-3.

East’s Jaguars fell to 4-15.

“We won the region last year and made it to the final eight, but this is the first year we’ve been ranked,” said Bird, whose team is No. 19 in the latest state volleyball poll. “Though, to be honest, I’m not too worried about the ranking. I’m just trying to get these girls to play to the best of their ability, you know? Sometimes, it’s hard to get them to focus.

“On a given day, we can play with the top teams in the state.”

Indeed. The Colts few defeats include a 1-2 to No.8 North Oldham; an 0-2 loss to No. 10 Oldham County, and a 1-2 loss to powerful Lafayette — all in a tournament on Aug. 26 at Lafayette.

West has won six consecutive matches since.

“We only lost three seniors from last year, and only two of them were starters,” Bird said, referring to Annalyn Weitekamp and Klara Morgan. “They were big losses because both of them were 6-foot, 6-1. So we’re not as big this year, but I think we’re probably quicker than we were last year. We have a little better ball control.”

Further aiding the West cause is the fact that most of the Colts play club volleyball. Add that to the experience gained at the high school level, and this is what you get.

“It’s like they never quit playing,” Bird said. “And most of this group that’s out here starting has started the last two years, so they’ve been playing together for quite awhile.”

It shows on the court, where the deep and talented Colts appear to have all the tools for a special season.

“They (Colts) are phenomenal,” East Jessamine coach Kayleigh Westerfield said when asked what her young team gains playing a team like West. “You can learn what you need to work on against them. For instance, how they move their feet. Their whole team moves. And that’s what you have to do to compete against a team like that.”

Bird bemoans a lack of focus in a match like this, and he said his team’s poor serving Tuesday will cause headaches, but he doesn’t sound like a man terribly worried, big picture.

Bird’s optimism starts with a senior class listed as Kayleigh Carper, Brenna Hall, Grace Harvey, Alexis Rich, Kayla Vanderweele and Eliza

Wack.

When asked who his leaders are, Bird replied: “My whole senior group.

They are just super leaders, and they’re all just great role models for the younger girls.

“All these girls are super tight,” he added, referring to his roster as a whole. “They are all good friends. They have each others’ backs. And when they’re playing well, they are talking, communicating, covering each other…they’re just doing everything.”

The Colts are off until a match at Mercer County Tuesday.

East’s Westerfield has her own reasons for encouragement, despite the lopsided nature of Tuesday’s match.

Westerfield is in her first year of coaching, and took on an East program that’s struggled in recent years and started off this campaign 0-12.

“We have definitely improved,” said Westerfield, whose Jaguars came into play Tuesday winners of four of their previous six matches. “When we first started, we’d be down by two points and be done. That’s been their default in years’ past.”

That issue magnified the importance of the recent wins over Danville, Burgin,  McCreary Central and Frankfort.

“We needed that so much, more than I can even describe,” Westerfield said of the recent taste of success. “Because they have skill. There is no doubt in my mind these girls can compete with teams like West. But they’re coming off several losing seasons, so they came into this like, oh, we can’t do it. Now, after winning those matches, they think, hey, maybe we CAN do it.”

East has a young team, with Taliyah Colone, Reagan Jenkins and Kaleigh Rhorer listed as the lone Jaguar seniors. 

Westerfield says it’s vital that the younger Jaguars get involved with club volleyball like their West counterparts.

“That’s something I’ve got to emphasize so we don’t have that down time in the offseason,” Westerfield said. The Jaguars were slated to play at Bourbon County Wednesday and at Nicholas County on Tuesday.

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West Jessamine also won the junior varsity match Tuesday night at

East, by a count of 21-12 and 21-10.