Assumption tough again

| August 10, 2011
Assumption volleyball star Katie George has battled medical issues, but has been cleared to play.

Assumption volleyball star Katie George has battled medical issues, but has been cleared to play.

For Ron Kordes and the Assumption volleyball team each year brings the same expectation – a state title.

In 15 of the last 19 seasons that expectation has been met. The Rockets have built a dominant program that annually ranks among the nation’s best.

The season gets underway this week, and Kordes has a reloaded lineup.

“The outlook for Assumption is good,” said Kordes. “Although we lost six starting seniors, we have some very talented underclassmen.”

One factor that may determine the Rockets’ chances for a repeat is the health of senior setter Katie George.

She had a routine tonsillectomy in July, but doctors discovered blood clots in her left lung and left leg.

Manual volleyball standout Maya McClendon has a 34-inch vertical and will be a key for the Crimsons.

Manual volleyball standout Maya McClendon has a 34-inch vertical and will be a key for the Crimsons.

George, a Louisville commit, spent a week in the hospital and was just cleared to play as of last week.

On blood thinners and still waiting for the clots to fully dissolve, she must wear a helmet as well as padding on her knees, hips and elbows to avoid internal bleeding in the event of a collision on-court.

“I look like a Ninja Turtle and my teammates think it’s really funny,” said George. “I can move alright. It just gets hot.”

Looking to defuse the Rockets will be Mercy and Sacred Heart, coached by brothers Todd and Eric Garvey, respectively.

Mercy, state champs in 2008 and 2009, will lean on senior setter Amanda Crask to guide the talented but inexperienced Jaguars, who lost six starters.

Crask was a first-team All-State selection as a junior and has committed to Tennessee-Martin.

Sacred Heart will play a grueling schedule that includes elite tournaments in Las Vegas and Chicago.

Mercy senior outside hitter Lauren Schneidtmiller in scrimmage against Notre Dame academy.

Mercy senior outside hitter Lauren Schneidtmiller in scrimmage against Notre Dame academy.

While the Valkyries have a variety of offensive threats, including senior outside hitter Megan Lipski and junior middle Katie Bradley, it is the defensive play of Meredith Ashy that may carry them.

“She has the rare ability to dominate a game as a defender,” said Garvey. “She has the potential to be one of the nation’s best liberos this season.”

Manual, led by first-year head coach Chris Gould, could be a dark horse in Region 7. The Crimsons return five starters from a team that went 23-11.

“The core group is back, and they’re very hungry,” said Gould.

Junior outside hitter Maya McClendon boasts a 34-inch vertical and promises to be an exciting talent this season.

Regions 6 and 7 will feature several of the state’s premier teams. Here is a breakdown of each region’s best:

Region Six

Mercy Jaguars
Coach – Todd Garvey (sixth season)
Last season – 35-6, lost to Assumption in state final
Player to watch – Amanda Crask, Sr., S
Other top players – Lauren Schneidtmiller, Sr., OH; Paige Stewart, Sr., DS; Sarah Katz, Sr., OPP
Coach Garvey’s outlook – “We will be rebuilding, but have some young talent that we hope to develop in time to make a run.”

Presentation Toppers
Coach – Paul Bowling (fifth season)
Last season – 10-17, lost to Holy Cross in regional semifinals
Player to watch – Erin Evans, Jr., OH
Other top players – Lisa Azzara, Sr., DS; McKenzie Eskridge, So., DS
Coach Bowling’s outlook – “We’re short in the front row and I don’t see us getting a lot of traditional front-row blocks and kills, but I see us as a strong team defensively that will relentlessly pursue the ball.”

Butler Bearettes
Coach: Tim Fagan (12th season)
Last season – 22-13, lost to Mercy in regional quarterfinal
Player to watch – Katelyn Cosgrove, Sr., S
Other top players – Megan Brown, Sr., OH; Maggie Goben, Sr., M; Chelsea Smith, Jr., M
Coach Fagan’s outlook – “Katelyn Cosgrove has set the last three years. Her talent and experience will help her quarterback the offense and lead the team on and off the court.”

Holy Cross Cougars
Coach – Matt Thomerson (fourth season)
Last season – 23-9, lost to Mercy in regional final
Player to watch – Lynsey Hazelwood, Sr., OH, committed to Tennessee-Martin
Other top players – Coral Maybrier, Sr., OPP; Jenna Conway, Sr., OH; Monica Loftus, Fr., S
Coach Thomerson’s outlook – “We lost nine girls  (seven seniors and two others who committed to other sports) and we’re very young. We still have high expectations, though, and finished second to Henry Clay in the Bluegrass State Games last month.”

Male Bulldogs
Coach – Bill Payne (fourth season)
Last season – 26-11, lost to Mercy in regional semifinal
Player to watch – Kellie Ranney, Sr., S
Other top players – Kacy Clinkenbeard, Jr., OH; Georgia O’Connell, Jr., LIB; Taylor Pelton, So., OH
Coach Payne’s outlook – “We have a great group of returning players and some impressive freshmen. If we keep team synergy … we will do very well.”

Region Seven

Manual Crimsons
Coach – Chris Gould (first season)
Last season – 23-11, lost to Sacred Heart in regional semifinal
Player to watch – Maya McClendon, Jr., OH
Other top players – Emma Roberson, Sr., OPP; Jodie Klein, Sr., LIB; Alexa Just, Jr., S
Coach Gould’s outlook – “Our season is promising after losing only one senior. Emma Roberson is recovering from knee surgery and will be back in a couple of weeks.”

Assumption Rockets
Coach – Ron Kordes (24th season)
Last season – 39-4, beat Mercy to win state title
Player to watch – Katie George, Sr., S
Other top players – Chelsea Bowles, Sr., DS; Dallas Zimmerman, Sr., M; Kaelin Grimes, Jr., DS; London Ackerman, Jr., DS
Coach Kordes’ outlook –  “Katie (George) is our drive and one of the best leaders at her age that I have ever coached.”

Sacred Heart Valkyries
Coach – Eric Garvey (fifth season)
Last season – 25-13, lost to Assumption in regional final
Player to watch – Megan Lipski, Sr., OH, committed to Buffalo
Other top players – Meredith Ashy, Sr., LIB; Katie Bradley, Jr., M; Connor Borgmeier, Sr., OH
Coach Garvey’s outlook – “Our defense should be solid throughout. We have many offensive weapons to choose from which should give us a balanced attack and make us hard to defend.”

Ballard Bruins
Coach – Lamar Grayson (first season)
Last season – 13-18, lost to CAL in district semifinal
Player to watch – Shelby Ramsey, Sr., OH
Other top players – Abby Smith, Sr., OPP; Haley Whitchurch, Sr., S; Kendall Dermon, Sr., S
Coach Grayson’s outlook – “We are a young team that has shown a willingness to get better every day. At this rate, I really believe we will renew the old tradition of contending for the district title.”

Christian Academy Centurions
Coach – Kevin Bowers (third season)
Last season – 18-11, lost to Manual in regional
Player to watch – Lauren Wilhite, Sr., S
Other top players – Andi Nichol, Sr., OH, Kacie Fallot, Sr., DS; Jana Kortas, Sr., M
Coach Bowers’ outlook – “We are a senior-led team with a lot of potential. (Our)challenge will be to avoid injury and keep players healthy.”

Eastern Eagles
Coach – Eric Brian (third season)
Last season – 25-9, lost to Assumption in regional
Player to watch – Leila Kamousi, Sr., L
Other top players – Jordan Kraus, Jr., S/DS; Andrea Amettis, Jr., S/DS
Coach Brian’s outlook – “We will rely heavily on freshman outside hitters (Molly Gilkison, Amanda Frank and Megan Willoughby), but if we mature quickly and take care of the ball, we can be very successful.”
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at

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Chris Cahill

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