Lady Dragons starting over following graduation losses


Team members include, from left, front row: Olivia Helton, Campbell Nunez, Bailee Maples, Tess Bryson, Ella Farley and Emma Owens; middle row: Anna Lawson, Kaylee Roark, Carley Jump, Kendyll Blanton and Annie Hoskins; back row: Marissa Marlowe, Carley Thomas and Kamryn Blanton.

Coaches this time of year often talk about rebuilding, especially new ones who are taking over programs hit hard by graduation.
For first-year Harlan coach Cori Kirk, rebuilding isn’t an accurate description for the job she faces. Kirk and the Lady Dragons after almost starting over after losing eight seniors to graduation, including all six starters.
“It’s a very young team, but we have a lot of potential. I’m really excited about this season,” said Kirk, a 2012 graduate of Sheldon Clark High School. “I think we’re learning together. I’m learning about the girls and they are learning me. I think forming those relationships and working together will help.”
After four straight district titles, the Lady Dragons’ string ended last fall with an upset loss to Bell County in the district finals. Kirk says the experience of playing on good teams, even in a reserve role, could help the four players still around from last year’s team.
“I can see the girls know how to play smart,” Kirk said. “They are able to make those good, quick decisions. I think that experience with the older teammates will help this season.”
The Lady Dragons will feature what is likely the region’s youngest lineup with three sophomores, two freshmen and an eighth-grader on a roster that features no seniors or juniors.
“They are all young but have great potential,” Kirk said.
Annie Hoskins, a freshman, and Marissa Marlowe, a sophomore, will take over key roles around the net.
“Annie has a lot of power and strength and can place the ball really well,” Kirk said. “Marissa is very good at getting to the ball and finishing points with good placement.”
Carly Thomas, an eighth-grader, is also expected to take on a key role this season.
“She is very athletic and will be a good addition to the hitter on the team,” Kirk said.
Bailee Maples, a sophomore, is the Lady Dragons’ top setter.
“She’s very quick and is great at setting up our hitters to make a kill,” Kirk said.
Taylor Hall, a freshman, and Emma Owens, a sophomore, could round out the lineup.
“Taylor is very quick on her feet and good at digging the ball to get hits set up,” Kirk said. “Emma is real quick and light on her feet and can place the ball where she wants.”
Campbell Nunez, a sophomore, will also compete for a starting job as a setter.
“I can see her working her way in really easily,” Kirk said.
Kendyll Blanton, Tess Bryson and Chloe Ditty, all freshmen, are expected to provide depth, along with eighth-graders Ava Nunez and Ella Farley.
With no clear-cut favorites in the district, Kirk likes the Lady Dragons’ chances of making a sixth straight trip to the regional tournament.
“I think we’ll have a pretty good season, and I’m really excited to get started,” she said.