With the hiring of former Shelbyville standout Whitney Moore as the new volleyball coach at Waldron High School, Shelbyville head coach Chelsea Caldwell-Moore becomes an unofficial advisor to the program.
The same is true for Waldron’s first-year coach, a former assistant at Shelbyville, and sister-in-law to the Golden Bears coach.
The pair of 2008 high school graduates played together at Franklin College. Now both are head coaches who are constantly bouncing thoughts off each other.
“This is interesting for both of us,” said Whitney Moore. “She went to a small school (Morristown) and now coaches at a big school. And I went to a big school and am coaching at a small school. It’s like we’re trading places.”
Southwestern also has a new coach in Katie Mudd, who graduated from the school in 2011 and has been coaching in the junior high program before her promotion this season.
Here’s a look at the five Shelby County volleyball programs:
The Golden Bears will not overpower many opponents this season. Caldwell-Moore recognizes that fact.
Defense was stressed all summer long during workouts. It has to be the calling card for Shelbyville in 2016.
“Our defensive players have a lot of pressure on them this season,” said Caldwell-Moore. “They have to make the pass first before we can do anything else.”
Awaiting that first pass will be senior setter Hannah Dwenger, who became the program’s primary setter in 2015.
“She has experience now and the girls are used to hitting off her sets,” said Caldwell-Moore.
Dwenger will look to set up hitters Zoe Laker, Abby Orem, Emily Foltz and Lauren Campton.
Senior hitter Branicka Holly, a former standout at Shelbyville Middle School before transferring to Triton Central, returns to the program and could be a big offensive burst for the Golden Bears.
“She is very athletic,” said Caldwell-Moore. “She can jump. She can swing and she’s got power. She just has to get used to playing with the team.”
TeAnn Bringle returns to her libero role but she could share time at the position with Samantha Watson, Lilyann Gulley and Addison Mummert.
Moore’s plan to build the program starts with getting the 2016 squad to play with confidence.
“I expect us to be competitive this year,” said Moore. “We are getting better at fundamentals every day. They are eager to learn and hustle. Now we have to trust one another and play as a team. It will take all six (on the court) to be successful.”
Sophomore Morgan Wood will run the offense from the setter position.
The veteran leaders are seniors Olivia Shauck and Taylor Schmid, both defensive specialists.
Middle hitters are Clarice Fischer and Abby Adams.
Alli Suiter, Taylor Fischer and Leah Long are the outside hitters.
Mudd didn’t officially take over the Spartans program until the end of June but she was there all summer working with the varsity. And that made the transition go smoothly.
Mudd was involved in Vicky Beach’s program the last two years and believes she is ready to take over the varsity program.
“When I took the junior high (coaching position), I didn’t know if I could do this,” said Mudd. “I had never coached before. And now all of the sudden I’m up to the varsity. I’m excited and ready to go.”
Mudd and her Spartans debuted Monday night with a three-set win over Arlington.
Abby Sweet led the offensive attack from the middle hitter’s position.
“She is going to be very strong in that position,” said Mudd on Sunday.
The only seniors are Emma Abel and Megan Benson.
Shelbyville transfer Olivia Jackson takes over the setting duties.
Sarah Meredith, Mattie Schornick, Makenzie Schulze and Lenesha Smith — all sophomores — will factor into the Spartans success in 2016.
Darla Warfield has no seniors on her 2015 roster. There are only two this season as the program is built around a strong group of juniors.
Olivia Jones and Kailey Hardwick are the veterans. Jones missed last season due to a knee injury.
Patience Wood is back as the setter and her experience is starting to show.
“She is more of a leader now,” said Warfield. “Last year, she was taking on that role. This year, she wants to take control.”
Wood’s hitters again are Alayna Munson, Abby Carpenter, Katheryn Parker, Raegan Butcher, Cara Armentrout and Jones.
“Carpenter really developed over the summer,” said Warfield of Morristown’s middle hitter. “She did private lessons and has a very good arm.”
Also contributing this year will be Grace Young and Macey Creekmore, who will be the libero.
“We played in a league this summer against bigger schools and we we’re competitive with them,” said Warfield. “I think this is the year we tip over the edge and get to .500 or better.”
The junior class already has two years of varsity experience. Warfield expects that to start to show this season.
“Last year, we were still trying to get the feel of winning,” she said. “That first year, all they knew how to do was lose. They got a taste of winning last year. Now they know they can be good. They just need more hard work. This can be a really good team.”
The class of 2015 brought Triton Central volleyball back to prominence. Can the program maintain its winning ways in 2016 after losing a strong senior class led by Player of the Year Ally Williams?
“More work” was head coach Ray Basile’s succinct answer when asked what it would take to keep the program competing at a high level.
“Hard work and time on the gym floor is what turned things around and the girls have worked hard this offseason with a focus on not just maintaining things but continuing to build upon the recent success,” he said. “The answer to any volleyball problem is almost always the same — more practice equals more results.”
Basile looks to six seniors to keep the program’s momentum rolling.
“Whether through things as simple as being there day after day for open gyms in January and February when the season is a long way off, or by being vocal leaders when necessary to maintain focus and effort when those things tend to lag during a long practice, senior leadership is critical,” said Basile.
Triton Central’s six seniors in 2016 are Danni Schweitzer, Gabbi Mahurin, Shelden Welty, Brooke LeMasters, Courtney Raymer and Mackenzie Holtz.
Junior contributors will be Bailey Chandler, Bella Cooper, Colleen Sanders and Rynisha Holly. Chandler, a transfer from Martinsville, takes over the setting duties for the Tigers.
Freshman Maya Chandler also is expected to contribute at the varsity level.
There is plenty to be excited about in Fairland for a volleyball program that climbed into the state rankings last season. However, the season starts on a somber note after sophomore Emma Borinstein died in a Virginia plane crash Friday with other members of her family.
The season opener, originally scheduled for Tuesday against Whiteland, will take place tonight. The TC community has asked everyone attending to wear “purple” to honor Emma.
According to Triton Central’s twitter account (@TCTIGERS), all students in attendance from any school will not be charged an admission price.
Jeff Brown is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @iamtsnsports.