LIBERTY — Casey County’s volleyball lineup will likely be a work in progress for some time, but the early returns on the Rebels’ adjustments indicate they’re headed in the right direction.
In addition to replacing two stars lost to graduation, Casey has placed some of its returning players in new roles in hopes of constructing a third straight successful season.
The Rebels’ first step took them in the right direction Thursday night, as they opened a new season with a 25-20, 20-25, 15-11 victory over Burgin.
“We changed our lineup so we’re running one setter now, and I think the girls are moving better that way. They like it better,” Casey assistant coach Angie McQueary said.
Actually, switching from two setters to one is only one of the changes for Casey, which has won its district and reached the 12th Region semifinals in each of the last two years.
“They’ve moved some of us around. We’re playing new spots and we have a new rotation,” senior hitter Jami Luttrell said. “It got a little confusing for a while, but we’ve all got used to it. We just have to adjust to new places.”
Sarah Beard, one of last year’s two setters, is the sole setter this year. The flip side of that is that the Rebels are sending more people to the net.
“We’ve got an extra rotation of hitters. We’re hitting on the opposite side now,” McQueary said.
Host Casey made an adjustment on the fly Thursday when two Burgin starters walked in the door — and right into the lineup — after the match started. Hitters Randi Burke and Liz Marcinek were attending a funeral visitation, and Casey coach Veronica Sengkhamyong agreed to delay the match for a few minutes to give them more time to get to Liberty.
They didn’t make it in time for the start, and Burgin was behind 8-4 in the first set when they walked in and coach Maggie McKnight called timeout to give them a minute to limber up before they got into the lineup.
The Bulldogs didn’t get much of a boost, however, as they closed to within two points but never caught up in the first set. They rallied to win the second set but played from behind again throughout the third.
“It threw us off pretty early in the match,” McKnight said. “I have to thank Casey County for being so understanding. They really worked with us in postponing as long as possible so we could get those two girls here. But I don’t feel like we ever found our stride, like we ever really found our rhythm in this match.”
Casey won despite making a number of service errors, but McQueary said the Rebels’ start was a good one for the most part.
“We just have to work on our serving. That’s one of our tweaks we’re going to have to do,” she said.
McKnight said Burgin (1-1) has some adjustments to make as well.
“I think we’ve got to learn to be tougher mentally and play with more confidence and strength even when we’re behind,” she said. “I think we’ve kind of gotten used to playing ahead and defending a lead rather than trying to dig out of a hole, and that’s something that’s difficult for us to simulate in practice.”
A story in Wednesday’s Advocate and on amnews.com stated that the format for high school volleyball matches has been changed to best-of-five sets this season. However, the traditional best-of-three format may be used for regular-season matches if coaches agree to it beforehand, as Burgin and Casey’s coaches did Thursday.
All postseason matches will be best-of-five.