‘Cats Ready To Defend Volleyball Titles

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Returning strong leaders from last year’s team and adding several promising newcomers, the Rockbridge County High School volleyball team looks to continue to build on the success of the last few years.

The Wildcats, who had not won a district or regional title until two years ago, are the two-time defending champions for both the Valley District and Region 3C. They ended both of the last two seasons by losing in the Class 3 state quarterfinals to Hidden Valley.RC won its first 11 matches last year and finished 21-4 overall, the same record as the year before. The Wildcats went 11-1 in the district last year.

Fourth-year head coach Amanda McCoy and her assistants have been working with the youth of their varsity team, teaching and researching defensive and offensive coverage, in and out of system plays. McCoy said they are trying to get “the best combination of players on the floor each match.”

The Wildcats graduated several key seniors from last year’s team. Libero Kennedy Clemmer, who finished her career with over 1,0000 digs, is about to begin her freshman season playing Division III volleyball for Roanoke College. RC also graduated Jaden Harrison, McKenna Mohler and Jordyn Wright.

Despite these losses, the Wildcats, who plan to name captains this week, have a talented group of nine returning players to guide four first-year varsity players.

Expected to lead the Wildcats is a powerful middle and outside hitter, senior Graceon Armstrong, who was the Region 3C player of the year and was selected to the all-district first team and the all-state second team. Also returning as a leader is junior outside hitter and libero Jaydyn Clemmer, younger sister of Kennedy. Last year, Jaydyn was named to the all-district and all-region first teams and the all-state second team.

Joining Armstrong in the senior class are defensive specialist and libero Emma Lawson and Meredith Lawhorn, an outside hitter and defensive specialist.

Courtney Towle is a returning junior setter, and sophomore middle hitter Aiyana Cooper moved up from the junior varsity to varsity team last year. Sophomore setter and opposite hitter Krissy Whitesell returns as a varsity starter, and sophomore middle and outside hitter Grace Cauley returns and should see more playing time in the middle position. Returning as an outside and opposite hitter is sophomore Rachel Ferris.

Sophomore defensive specialist and opposite hitter Ashley Hostetter moves up to the varsity level after playing for the junior varsity team last year. Also up from the JV level is freshman setter and opposite hitter Jaden McCoy. The Wildcats welcome two other freshmen, defensive specialist McKenzie Hines and outside hitter Rachel Hines.

With the departure of assistant coaches Davina Copsy and Karen Clemmer, who will rotate between watching her daughters Kennedy and Jaydn play volleyball, the Wildcats have added four new assistant coaches. Michelle Kirby, a 1999 RC graduate and former head volleyball coach at Stuarts Draft, is McCoy’s varsity assistant coach. Juliana Lozaw is a volunteer assistant coach.

Mike Burch is the head junior varsity coach, and he’ll be assisted by his daughter, Hannah, a 2018 RC graduate who was the Region 3C player of the year and an all-state first team selection during her senior year. Hannah will be commuting from James Madison University, where she is starting her sophomore year.

In the Valley District, Fort Defiance has provided the most competition for the Wildcats in recent years, as RC has had to overcome Fort in the district finals the last two years. Coach McCoy said the Wildcats “never underestimate anyone. That is a key principle in our program. Always respect your opponent.”

The Wildcats have been preparing themselves for the upcoming season with scrimmages, and several players – Jaden McCoy, Cauley and Cooper – attended the Amateur Athletic Union Nationals in Orlando, Fla. in June.

They’ll be participating in a team fundraiser this Saturday when they hold a car wash at Tractor Supply from 8 a.m. to noon.

The regular season will start next Tuesday when the Wildcats play host to Fort Defiance. RC will then play host to Parry McCluer on Thursday, Aug. 29. Both nights will start with JV action at 5:30 p.m.

The News-Gazette

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