The winds of West Holmes volleyball, they are a-changin’.
Last season was the final campaign of long-time Lady Knights head volleyball coach Jim Park. Over more than two decades he has built the West Holmes program onto one that has gained respect statewide. He has taken teams to state and consistently put up huge winning records.
But after 2015, not only did Park retire, but the Lady Knights lost six key seniors, all of whom played a key role in the team’s success the past four years.
Now in 2016 the program has new talent and a new face at its helm. Rookie coach Savannah Moore takes over the reins, and with only senior Kacie Leppla and junior Lauren Park returning from last year’s team, the Lady Knights will definitely have a brand new look to them this year.
While a young team coupled with a first-year head coach could be a detriment to a program, Moore doesn’t see it that way at all.
She said she believes in the talent the team returns and that having a young team combined with a first year coach allows them to grow together.
“We all get a fresh start,” Moore said of the team. “I wouldn’t want any other team but this one. I have seen how hard they have worked in the offseason and how much they want to prove to everyone they can play this game. I know that every girl, every one of the coaches and myself are here for a reason, and we all want to get after this and play hard with a lot of passion. They know how much the coaching staff believes in them, and they know that being young doesn’t give us an excuse to lose matches. We have set some lofty goals in preseason, and why not shoot for the stars? I think we can surprise a lot of teams.”
It all starts with Park at outside hitter. The lanky junior is already signed up to attend Ohio University on a scholarship when she graduates, and she provides a monster hitter who can carry a team when she gets on a roll. Leppla will serve as the quarterback and leader as the team’s setter, and she has been biding her time behind four-time All-Ohioan Cara Park, who graduated last year with the third-highest number of assists in Ohio volleyball state history.
“Lauren is one of those players whose talent levels is off the chart,” Moore said of Park. “She can be frightening when she is in attack mode, and Kacie has been waiting a long time to take over this team and prove she can play this game. Both of those girls are extremely athletic and talented, and they give us great leadership.”
The youthful Knights actually got an infusion of talent when three seniors decided to return to the courts. That includes middle hitter Sammy Hall, Leppla’s twin sister Kylie and outside hitter Makenna Mulhall. All three are talented and have already made an impression on their head coach.
“Just having them back is a big boost for us,” Moore said. “They bring a lot of athleticism to the floor.”
Another set of twins, Emily and Sarah Anderson, add plenty of depth to the team and also are two extremely gifted jumper servers while Camryn Yeager also will factor into Moore’s rotation.
Moore said she has watched the team grow and gain confidence during the offseason and added that they have faced their share of adversity and struggles throughout the process.
But she sees it coming together and said the possibilities are very intriguing.
“We haven’t even come close to peaking yet, and I think the girls are starting to get a taste of how exciting this season can be,” Moore said. “We just need to continue to work hard and play with a lot of enthusiasm and passion. Yes, we will make mistakes, but that is where we can grow and improve. I think what we have is a group of girls who really enjoy this game and want to play hard for each other.”