The North Laurel Lady Jaguars have finished up their first season under head coach Cary Clark, who is hoping to change the culture of volleyball at North Laurel.
Clark came to North Laurel in May, giving him very little time before the season began to get to know an entirely new team.
“Initially, I did not know much about the team at all,” Clark said. “I was coming from a totally different region and a totally different area of the state and really didn’t know much about North Laurel volleyball.
“Once I got here, I learned a little bit more and kind of came to an understanding that this was going to be a little bit of a rebuilding year. They’d lost several of their starters to graduation and several key seniors and most of the girls remaining on the team had little to no varsity experience.”
Clark said he wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the season but hoped to begin laying down the foundation for change.
“More than anything, my expectation was to get my system into place and kind of get the program where I wanted it to get to, kind of established and then, after that, evaluate the talent of the kids and start progressing to my end goals and where we’d like to take them to,” he said.
The Lady Jaguars were led by four seniors—Macayla Callihan, Terrah Roberts, Emma Thompson and Jasey Williams.
“I had four seniors that played, we had another senior that had been on the team but she never was able to play because of an ongoing injury, but all of them were very receptive to everything I brought to the table and definitely wanted to learn,” Clark said. “Most of the season was carried by the seniors in some pretty tough positions.”
Despite being led by four seniors, Clark said there was also a lot of inexperience on the court this season, as well.
“We had some very inexperienced players,” he said. “We ran a freshman (Alivia Parker) at setter all season long and while she did extremely well as a freshman, there were definitely some learning curves. That definitely will set us up for the future. My starting libero (Harper Locke) was a sophomore who had never been in that position before, which again is going to serve us well for the future but we were putting inexperience in a lot of the important spots on the court.”
The Lady Jaguars finished the season with a 49th District title and a 15-19 record, ending their season in a loss to South Laurel in the first round of the 13th Region Volleyball Tournament.
Clark believes that this season has certainly helped to start moving North Laurel volleyball in the right direction.
“The girls, on the whole, were very receptive to the culture I’m trying to build and where we want the program to get to,” he said. “I thought it laid a great cornerstone for moving forward.”
Looking ahead at next season, with four seniors set to graduate, Clark said there will be several spots to fill on the court.
The Lady Jaguars will have a starting defensive specialist and outside hitter returning in upcoming seniors Brynna Lawson and Abigail Mounce, as well as several younger players who played significant minutes for North Laurel this season.
“The good news is, I won’t be coming in in May next year,” he said. “I had a short period of time to introduce things to them this year but those things have been introduced at least and we’ll continue working on those. I think we’ll be in a much better position with our legs underneath of us. We’ll be able to get in some conditioning next year, which we weren’t able to do this year and hopefully build on what we started to do this year and just continue to develop it.
“I’m happy to be here at North Laurel. I think there is a lot of opportunity here, a lot of room to grow. The parents and kids have been extremely supportive. It’s fun to coach coachable kids and the kids in this program are all very coachable. They all want to learn and as a coach, that’s all you can ask for out of your girls and your program.”