Just two short years ago the St. Catharine Patriots’ Volleyball team won a school high 25 games with a team full of talented freshman and only two upperclassmen.
However, in 2012 the Patriots took a step back, by finishing 12-19 overall and just 5-10 in the Mid-South Conference (MSC). For the 2013 season the Patriots look to bounce back under the new leadership of rookie coach Jason McDannold.
McDannold, a Versailles, KY native, takes over a Patriot squad that barely survived disaster last season after losing a coach and adapting to the system of interim coach John Rogers. “John [Rogers] stepped in a volatile situation and saved the program from collapsing. He had an uphill battle the whole way, but was able to bring the team together enough for a strong showing against Lindsey Wilson College in the first round of the conference tournament”, says McDannold. In fact, the showing that McDannold is referring to could be considered the bright spot of the 2012 campaign for the Patriots. During that contest that the Patriots were able to take a set and lose by close margins in the other three to the eventual champion Lindsey Wilson. “We had a lot of fun toward the end of the season,” says Rogers. “These girls worked hard and deserve to win, which has convinced me to stay as an assistant for this season.” Rogers will join McDannold and assistant Jairo Sierra on the bench to round out the Patriots’ leadership for the 2013 season.
In 2013 the St. Catharine high flyers will look to take the momentum that they gained in the tournament and use it to vault them into a season in which they are ranked 7th out of 10 in the preseason conference poll. “You can’t place too much into rankings, but don’t think for a minute that the poll won’t be hanging in our locker room with large high lighter marks for the entire season” joked McDannold. In fact, when speaking to the Patriot athletes it is obvious that their maturity is what will be carrying this squad. The Patriots will bring 5 juniors and 1 senior to the court, all of which played on the 25 win team. “We aren’t so young anymore” says junior middle hitter Casey Stone, who had 71 blocks and 249 kills during the 2012 campaign. “This team has to have top heavy leadership in order for our younger players to make waves.” In 2013 the Patriots added 3 freshmen and a sophomore transfer to a roster that already had 4 sophomores who saw significant floor time in 2012. Led by Murray State transfer Jodie Klein, who had a total of 227 digs in the 2012 season, the Patriots 2013 recruiting class looks to be one that will make a difference in the lineup immediately. “Adding Jodie to the back row makes us a defensive threat” says McDannold. “With Randa [Murphy], Lauren [Bowling], and Jodie [Klein] we will have an opportunity to be in every single play from the back row.” In 2012 Murphy averaged 5.8 digs per game, while Bowling came in with 2.7 in her first year back from a redshirt.
Even with the added elements of the back row McDannold still found time to find talent to strengthen an already exciting front row by adding freshman outside hitter Erin Cottrell and setter Abbey Sorrells. “Our freshmen have a lot to learn about the college game, but I am confident that with our upper classmen’s experience they will learn quickly” says McDannold. “All of the freshmen, Erin Cottrel, Lacy Walker and Abbey Sorrells, will have an opportunity to make a difference early.” With the number of talented athletes being added to the roster it would be easy to assume that the upper classmen would become unsettled, but senior defensive specialist Randa Murphy stated that “it is great to have all of the new players. I finally feel like I don’t have to rely solely on myself and can count on all of my teammates around me.”
To kick things off the Patriots have already traveled to Mid-Continent University to play the Cougars in a preseason scrimmage, where they were able to win 4 out of 5 sets. “It was good to get on the floor and play someone other than ourselves. We definitely have a long way to go to reach the point where we want to be, but at points during the scrimmage we looked to be heading in the right direction” says McDannold. Unfortunately for the Patriots it will be a short lived period to prepare for conference play since the Rams of Bluefield College will invade Lourdes Hall during the second week of the season on August 27th. “No games are more important than any of the others, but we have to focus on winning conference matches in order to give ourselves a chance for top half seeding in the conference tournament”, says McDannold. Following a home opener against Midway on Tuesday, August 20, the Patriots will get one more chance for a tune up at the Michigan University-Dearborn tournament in Dearborn, Michigan. Even with a long conference schedule ahead, the Patriots have already formed ideas of what they need to do; “beat Lindsey [Wilson College] and Georgetown [College]. Yes, we need to show up in all of our matches, but the road to our conference championship will go through both of those schools, and we want to meet them head on” says junior Casey Stone. “Showing up is no longer enough, we will come prepared for every match, and it is up to us to play our brand of volleyball; hard work equals results.”