Pioneers excited about their future

October 16, 2003|MIKE MARSEE

LANCASTER - The end came for the Harrodsburg volleyball team Wednesday night, but it may only have been the beginning.

For while the curtain has come down on the best season in the team's short history, the Lady Pioneers are already looking ahead.

"We should be right back in the region next year," Harrodsburg coach Hallie Hammond said. "It should be a very good season if we can just build on what we learned this year."

The learning curve took Harrodsburg from a team trying to learn the game to the last local team left standing in the 12th Region Tournament.


The Lady Pioneers bowed out with a 25-11, 25-16 loss to South Laurel in a semifinal match, but they left the Garrard County gymnasium justifiably proud of what they had accomplished.

"I think it's a huge accomplishment," sophomore Brooke Sheperson said.

Harrodsburg finished 14-8 in its third season and won the 43rd District Tournament last week with two victories over Mercer County and one over Garrard.

"They were so excited, you would've thought they were going to state," Hammond said.

Harrodsburg was also the only one of four area teams in the regional field to reach the semifinals after it defeated Russell County in three games Monday.

"I didn't even think we'd make it to district, let alone win the district and come here and win one," Hammond said.

That's because the Lady Pioneers lost seven seniors from last year's team, leaving them with a big rebuilding job.

"We basically had a whole new team," Sheperson said.

"I basically had one hitter, one setter and two servers," said Hammond. "That was it. We had three starters tonight who had never played before this year."

There is only one senior on the team, and she said the Lady Pioneers are light years better than they were in preseason practices.

"I think it was awesome for a third-year team to be doing that well," said Katie Hudson, who has been with the team since its infancy in the 2001 season. "I'd love to come back."

She can't, of course, but those who will be back are eager to see what the future holds.

"I'm excited about next season," Sheperson said.

Harrodsburg was overmatched by a bigger, stronger, more experienced South Laurel team in its final match.

"That's probably the best team we've played all year," Sheperson said.

Hammond expected that, and she tried to prepare the Lady Pioneers for South Laurel's powerful servers by smashing serves their way in practice.

"I tried to serve as hard as I could yesterday," she said. "My arm was sore today."

Mandy Long had seven digs and five blocks for Harrodsburg, and Tiffany Smith had six blocks.

But South Laurel, which plays Pulaski County tonight for the regional championship, quickly took control of the match by jumping out to a 15-7 lead in the first game.

"In the first game, I think they were just scared," Hammond said. "They knew what to do, but they weren't doing it."

Harrodsburg's lone lead was a 1-0 advantage in the second game, but the Lady Cardinals regained control by scoring six of the next seven points and went on to an 18-6 lead.

But the Lady Pioneers had their moments even in defeat. They trailed 22-11 in the decisive second game, then scored four straight points that included a couple of thrilling rallies.

"That was awesome," Hudson said. "I've never seen a team play like that at Harrodsburg."

Hammond said experiences like that in matches such as this, as well as the experience of winning a district title and a regional match, can only help her team next season.

"They know they can do it," she said. "They've got a whole lot more confidence. They know how far we've come this year."

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