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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Lady Trojans believe things will fall into place (08/09)

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By Greg Crews

 

By GREG CREWS gcrews@thenewsenterprise.com RADCLIFF — Katrina Johnson knows it’s not how you start the season that matters, it’s how you finish. With a team lacking experience but loaded with talent, Johnson believes it’s only a matter of time before things fall into place for North Hardin. “A lot of our new girls are athletic, but never have played before,” said Johnson, who is entering her second season as the Lady Trojans head coach. “Once it all clicks, we could be the team to catch. But we have to get that all clicking first.” The Lady Trojans never really seemed to click last season as they finished 9-17, bowing out in the 15th District Tournament semifinals. From that squad, North Hardin graduated eight seniors. “(The offseason) was a little rough at first because we have so many young girls that were just learning how to play, but Coach Johnson and the other coaches really don’t want us to have a repeat of last year, where we had missed balls, dropped balls and not calling it,” said senior outside hitter Jessie Shartzer, who is one of only two returning starters along with her little sister Leah Shartzer, a freshman setter. “Things have been a little rough, but as we keep working on it we are going to get better because a lot of these young girls have a lot of talent.” As the team’s most experienced player and one of only three seniors, Johnson expects a lot out of Jessie Shartzer this season, but has still been surprised with her play in the offseason. “Jessie missed a lot of conditioning for softball, but she came in and picked up right where she left off,” Johnson said. “She’s a huge leader for us, very vocal. I knew she would be, but she has stepped up even more than I thought she would.” Johnson has seen similar leadership qualities from Leah Shartzer saying, “She has stepped up in a leadership position that I’m not sure she wants, but as a setter and as a varsity player she has stepped into that position very openly.” The Shartzer sisters will likely be joined in the starting rotation by senior Paige Wass, junior Alexis Embry, sophomore Allyssa Gibson, senior Andrea Ewen and sophomore libero Hayley Thurman. “Allyssa has worked tremendously hard in the offseason,” Johnson said. “She played club for the first time this year and she is a totally different player. She can absolutely kill the ball. “Paige Wass — she moved in from Fort Knox last year but too late to start the season with us — I think she will be a huge asset for us,” she added. The X-factor for the Lady Trojans this season could be junior twins Ebonee and Mahoganee Bethea. “This is their first year playing volleyball,” Johnson said. “Watching them, they’ve got the game, they understand it. It’s just getting it all down. But I think when they come alive it’s gong to be wonderful because, as you can see, they are both probably over 6-foot tall. When they get it, I think it is going to be a wonderful asset to the six starters that we kind of already have got settled.”  North Hardin has been on the verge of breaking out of its mold and making history for several seasons now. Two years after going 18-10, beating Elizabethtown and nearly making it to the district tournament final, the Lady Trojans are still looking for their first berth to the 5th Region Tournament and still looking for their first-ever victory over district rival Central Hardin. This year they feel the rest of the district may be down a bit and the pieces may be in place at North Hardin. “Of course, our goal is to make it to the district finals and make it to the region tournament,” Johnson said. “Our girls haven’t seen that yet and I know Jessie wants to of course go to region and play. Her and Leah have seen us go through a lot of ups and downs. They have seen us make it to the (district) semifinals and they have seen us get really close, and just to go that extra step and get there would definitely be the goal.” Greg Crews can be reached at 505-1754