WILLIAMSBURG — It was a season to remember for the Whitley County Lady Colonel volleyball team.
David Halcomb’s squad won 35 games, the 50th District Tournament, and the 13th Region championship along with many other accolades during the season.
Their Elite Eight finish during the Sweet Sixteen capped off one of the best runs from any 13th Region team.
“It’s just been a season that none of us will ever forget,” Halcomb said. “As I’ve said many times before, this group is a very special one and they have won the hearts of so many fans in the last two years. It has been a dream come true to be able to coach this team. There was no drama, no pointing fingers — the girls just went about their business and worked to improve. All of them played club volleyball in the offseason, worked hard in the weight room and got better in every way. We improved as a team over the summer, and we just didn’t want to lose.
“This is the second season in a row that we’ve been beaten out in the KHSAA Elite Eight by the eventual state champion,” he added. “I’ve not had a chance to look it up, but I’m fairly certain we played Assumption as close as any school from the mountains ever has, which is a great accomplishment in and of itself. Our girls showed a lot of grit and didn’t back down at all. A 35-3 record with all the back-to-back championships— it’s amazing. This team has definitely left a legacy that won’t soon be forgotten in Whitley County or in the 13th Region.”
Halcomb said his team was looking forward to this season right after their season ended in 2022.
“As soon as the season was over last year, I started talking to them about repeating as 13th Region Champions,” he admitted. “That’s something that has never been done in a team sport at Whitley County High School and these girls wanted to be the first to do it. We had two major goals this season — to repeat that championship and to compete well against a state powerhouse program. We reached both of those goals. It’s not an easy thing to repeat a championship, but this team never flinched, even when we felt the pressure of those expectations, we remained steady.
“Then there’s the old adage of ‘it’s hard to beat a good team three times,’” Halcomb admitted. “It was concerning to have to beat a good Corbin team multiple times and in championship matches down the stretch, but our girls just remained focused and trusted each other. We were able to get it done. Nothing really phased this team, and it was great to see them go out and compete every single time out, no matter the opponent.”
When it came to his team’s success, Halcomb was quick to point out, it took a total team effort for the Lady Colonels to accomplish what they did this season.
“All of our girls did great things for the overall success of our team over the course of the season,” he said. “It’s hard to just talk about one or two of them. I was really happy that Kaytlynn Collier was named 13th Region Player of the Year. She is an outstanding volleyball player. She ran our team offensively as our setter. She recently recorded her 2,000th assist. Marissa Douglas, last year’s Region Player of the Year, had another stellar season. She’s a tremendous hitter and led us in kills again this season. Marissa worked hard to become a really good defender, which has taken her game to another level.
“Jaelyn Brackett became a force for us on the net — she doubled her number of kills and blocks from last season,” Halcomb added. “Jaelyn and Kaytlynn put in a lot of work to get their timing down and we realized early on that she was going to be a great weapon for us offensively. She was the difference for us in several matches this season. Kylee Brown also stepped-up big time for us. She worked hard to increase her vertical jump in the offseason, and it showed as she increased her number of kills this season too. She was our vocal leader on the floor, bringing a lot of energy to our team.
“I think our libero Megan Gibbs is perhaps the most improved player I’ve ever coached,” he continued. “I love her focus on the floor and toughness she plays with. She cramped up in the district championship match, but there was no way she was going to come out of the match. I think she got to a point in her game that when she made a passing error, it really made her mad at herself and she was determined to be a great passer. I can’t say enough about Addison Siler. There were several matches where Addison just dominated for us. We saw glimpses of what she could do in practice last season, and she got more confidence this season — she was awesome for us.”
Halcomb was also pleased with the efforts of Emily Gaylor, Allyson Stack, Ciara Pittman, and Makayla Frazier.
“Emily Gaylor was so steady for us all year and we relied on her serve so much. Emily is a smart player and could find open spots on the court that would expose opposing defenses,” he said. “I’m so proud of Allyson Stack for taking the role of defensive specialist for us. She developed a great knack for picking up tips and rolls for us. She developed an ability to read defenses and get herself in a great position to make solid passes for us.
“Ciara Pittman was a vocal leader for us all season and was always ready to step in when we needed her to,” Halcomb added. “She came in several times and was able to steady our service game and did a lot more for our team. Makayla Frazier brought leadership to our team as well and was able to come in at various times, in different positions to help us. I feel she brought a certain amount of calmness to the team that we needed. When all of them were clicking at the same time, they were special to watch.”
Halcomb mentioned his seniors will be missed as well.
“We had nine seniors this season, this is unheard of for a volleyball team,” he said. “From a coaching standpoint, it made it tough at times to have that many seniors. I have so much respect and love for every one of them, I really do. Many of these girls have been best friends since they were little girls. The season has been over for only a few days now, but I already miss them. That locker room after the Assumption match and then also on senior night was tough.
“They have set a standard for our volleyball program — the dedication, their unity and desire to win has been second to none,” Halcomb added. “These seniors have also excelled academically, ranking near the top of their class. They are going to go on and have great careers in whatever occupation they choose. There will be some really fortunate schools and businesses to have any of these girls because they are all great leaders.”
Despite the loss of nine seniors and their leadership, Halcomb is excited to see what his Lady Colonels can accomplish next season.
“The achievements of our varsity team this year kind of overshadowed our JV and freshmen teams this year to the casual observer,” he said. “We placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on our JV team, knowing what we would be losing from this year’s team. Our JV team was 19-1 on the season and our freshmen team was undefeated. Think about that — as a program our record this season was 66-4! I’m sure we will be overlooked early on and that’s fine. We have some great younger players who are ready to step in the spotlight and do great things for us. Our coaches have seen what they can do in practice. Our JV got to go against a great team every day and some days would push our Varsity to the limit.
“We will have Addison back, which is great,” Halcomb added. “I expect Kirra Vance to come in and have an outstanding season for us. She’s worked hard and has become a really good outside hitter. I believe Kirra will be a player of the year candidate by the end of next season. Chandra Price is another player who will jump on the scene for us in a big way, as will our freshmen setter Jonna Rice. Morgan Huddleston, Courtney Claxton, Abby Lawson had good JV seasons for us too and will get an opportunity at the Varsity level next season. We feel like Khylea Ray Collier is an exceptional defender and will be called upon to help us too. As long as these girls work hard and bring great attitudes with a willingness to learn in the offseason, we are going to put a very competitive team on the floor next season.”
Halcomb also took time to give thanks to his coaching staff and bookkeeper.
“We have a great staff and I’m thankful for each one of my coaches and our bookkeeper,” he said. “Kim Lake has kept our score book since the beginning and keeps everyone on top of things. It’s a vital role that she plays for us in dealing with officials and lineups, etc. I really appreciate all Kim does for us.
“Halcomb added. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we have the best coaching staff around.
We have a great relationship and I think we have a great blend of characteristics that work well in motivating our players to be their best. Caitlyn (Decker) keeps our stats for us and helps us see tendencies within a match. She also does a great job in working with our passers. Heather (Smith) has helped me for many years and does a really good job. She has a way of getting the girls to respond in ways that I might not be able to. She has worked with our front row players on their blocking and it’s easy to see that she’s done an exceptional job in that area of the game. Heather isn’t afraid to tell me if something is a dumb idea and I respect that – we work well together.
I believe Mickayla (Coppock-McCoig) is the best young volleyball coach in the area,” he continued. “She was a great player and has a great mind for the game and has helped us tremendously the last two seasons. I credit Mick with taking our offensive game to another level. We are all really good friends and I think that is another positive aspect of our program that helps our teams to be successful.”
WILLIAMSBURG — It was a season to remember for the Whitley County Lady Colonel volleyball team.