Middlesboro volleyball going on the attack

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023


Contributing writer

It’s been 11 seasons since the Middlesboro Lady Jackets last posted a winning campaign in volleyball, going back to the 2011 squad that finished 17-13 and won the 52nd District title. That’s the challenge facing coach Morgan Mills and the Lady Jackets heading into their season opener on Aug. 15 at home against Lynn Camp, the one team Middlesboro beat last year in a 1-18 campaign.

Email newsletter signup

Mills said the team’s focus this season is shifting to more of an attacking style of offense.

“The big difference for me as a coach this season is focusing on offense. We have spent a lot of time focused on defense in the past and this season I aim to utilize my hitters as much as possible,” Mills said.

A turnaround won’t be easy with five of the Lady Jackets’ top eight players from last year graduating, including Harmony Goins, the team leader in assists with 111, and Emily Wilson, who was first on the team in service aces with 120.

Keylee Ayers, a junior who was second in aces with 85, also returns, along with senior Caylan Irvin, who had a team-high 75 kills in 2022.

“Keylee is an excellent middle blocker and server. She is constantly surprising me, and herself I believe, with her digging abilities as well,” Mills said. “Caylan is one of my most consistent outside hitters. Her volleyball knowledge is one of her best qualities as a player,” Mills said.

Jaslyn Wall, a senior, is the only other player returning from last year’s squad.

“Jaslyn Wall has always been one to take girls under her wing and help they feel more comfortable,” Mills said. “She is good at bringing people together.

Sudie Howerton, a sophomore, and Julia Ramirez, a freshman, are expected to move into the lineup as setters.

“Setters are your playmakers. They are some of the most important people in the court,” Mills said. “They have a lot of potential, and I expect big things from them.”

Maleah Crenshaw, a freshman, is another possible starter.

“Maleah is an outside hitter that I anticipate to be a leading scorer,” Mills said.

Sophomores Leah Spencer, at middle blocker, and Ava Spencer, playing on the right side, are also expected to play key roles.

Middlesboro schedule

Aug. 15 — Lynn Camp

Aug. 17 — at Harlan

Aug.. 22 — Oneida Baptist Institute

Aug. 24 — Bell County

Aug. 29 — at Red Bird

Sept. 5 — at Lynn Camp

Sept.  7 — Harlan County

Sept.  9 — vs Pineville (13th Region All “A” Classic)

Sept. 12 — at Oneida Baptist Institute

Sept. 14 — at Pineville

Sept.  19 — Red Bird

Sept. 21 — at Harlan County

Sept.  2 — at Barbourville

Sept. 28 — at Bell County

Oct. 10 — Harlan

Oct. 12 — Pineville

From left, front row: Jessica Heck, Keylee Ayers, Jaslyn Wall, Caylan Irvin and coach Morgan Philpot; middle row: Emilee McGrath, Jayla Lee, Sudie Howerton, Leah Spencer, Ava Spencer and Gia Sturgill; back row: Taylen Ayers, Taraji Brooks, Maleah Crenshaw, Julia Ramirez, Autumn Matlock and Alyssa Goins.