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Veteran Commanderettes key to success in ‘13

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By Brandon Mattingly

Having already made great strides over the past two seasons under Head Coach Anne Mudd, the Washington County High School volleyball team is looking to take another leap forward in 2013.

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After posting a 7-23 record in 2010, the Commanderettes have managed 14-14 and 15-17 seasons since, and now they have their sites set on their first winning season since 2007. With plenty of varsity experience returning amongst six seniors and eight juniors, it’s no wonder Washington County has thoughts of a 19th District title.

They will, of course, have to go through two-time defending champion Bethlehem, but after allowing a fifth-game lead over the eventual champs to slip away in last year’s tournament, Mudd said her team has learned a lot.

“Looking back, we know what we should have done to win. Those girls taking Bethlehem to five games had nothing to hang their heads about,” she said. “I think the district is pretty even this year, and it’s going to come down to the team that shows up to play.”

Senior Maddie Abell said the Commanderettes are “coming back with a vengeance,” while junior Halie Browning agreed that the team has plenty of motivation.

“Just knowing that we almost beat Bethlehem makes us want to beat them that much more this year,” Browning said. “We definitely consider them one of our rivals, along with Marion County, and we really want to get past them to win district this year.”

Marion County, in fact, will appear on the Commanderettes’ schedule only once this season, as opposed to the normal home-and-home with their border rivals. The change is one of several that Mudd said will allow the team to face some new competition this year. Her group has noted that Sept. 3 date at home against the Lady Knights.

“That makes it 10 times more important,” Browning said of playing their rivals just once, “because it’s either win or you lose, and there’s no coming back from it.”

Other big dates on this year’s calendar, as always, include the 5th Region All-A Classic, as well as the 19th District tournament. Atypical to most years, however, the Commanderettes will have the benefit of homecourt advantage in both tournaments. They’ll have a first-round bye in the All-A Classic (beginning Aug. 31 at 10 a.m.), and await the winner of a matchup between Caverna and Campbellsville in the second round. Fort Knox awaits the Green County-Bethlehem winner on the other side of the bracket.

While Washington County has had plenty of success late in each of the last two seasons—7-1 to end 2011 and 8-2 to finish 2012—Mudd said there’s reason to believe her team can pick up where they left off last year and get off to a hotter start.

“There are a lot of these seniors who got time on the court, so we still have a whole lot of leadership, not just in our senior class, but with our junior class too,” she said. “Every single one of them have been at open gym and conditioning throughout the summer 99.9 percent of the time.”

Success at camps like the one they attended at the University of Kentucky and a visit from the St. Catharine volleyball team have also put WC down the right path. SCC assistant and former Nelson County volleyball head coach, John Rogers, has continued to help the team grow since.

"Jason (McDannold) came in here with John (Rogers) and some of their players, and they did an awesome job. They taught us a lot of useful drills,” Mudd said. “Since John has been helping us, I think we’re starting out at a different place this year, because a lot of things have been implemented that are new.”

Mudd lauded her team for being receptive of making changes going into this season, and said they’ve even taken it upon themselves to get better by any means necessary.

“We came home from the Bluegrass State Games, and we had one player who was having difficulty with her hitting,” Mudd said. “She got off the bus, and her and another girl went out to the park and practiced. You can’t teach that. They’ve got to want it.”

With open gym, practices and camp going on since April, Mudd was already aware that her team was going to work hard.

“We don’t have lazy practices because I don’t have lazy girls,” she said. “Our season this year, whether it’s win or lose, wont’ be because they’re not giving 110 percent.”

Though they’re ready to get the season started, they’re also ready to see the team at full strength. A number of players are working their way back into the rotation from injuries and various other ailments, and one of the biggest returns to the team will be big-hitting senior Morgan Mann.

“We miss her,” Mudd said. “It’s not even just about missing her on the floor, we just miss her being around. I don’t worry about her falling behind, because I know she’s going to come back and not miss a beat.”

The Commanderettes open their season on Monday at Taylor County at 5:30 p.m., before their home opener on Tuesday  at 6 p.m. against George Rogers Clark. They’ll open the district schedule against Thomas Nelson next Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at home.