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New net coach looks to hang banners

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Yellow Jacket-turned-Bearcat pushes for practice perfection

By John Herndon

As he stops practice to point out some errors in how his Anderson County volleyball team is doing things, new coach Ryan Brown displays the patience of knowing he's dealing with high school girls, but also the drive that indicates he has high expectations for the Lady Bearcats.

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“I push my girls every single day,” says Brown, who is in the first year of his first head coaching job. “I demand perfection. I know no one is perfect but if you practice perfect, you play perfect. I am really tough on the girls and challenge them every day.”

Brown, a paraprofessional, takes over the Anderson job after leading the Woodford County Middle School program. His most recent group of players went 54-2 over two seasons and Brown is trying to bring that kind of enthusiasm that will push Anderson County to a place among the Eighth Region's elite programs.

Brown takes over from Bob Hardin, who spent many years in the Anderson program, the last three as the head coach. Hardin announced he was stepping down late in the season last year. He posted a 56-39 record in three years at the helm.

“It has taken a little while getting used to a new coach,” Brown says. “The last coach had been here a long time and the girls had gotten used to him. Coming in, it has taken a little time but the girls have begun to accept me.”

Brown inherits a team that he believes has the potential to push for an addition to the one district championship – 2006 – commemorated on a banner on one wall of the school gym.

“I have six seniors, so I have a bunch of leadership,” says Brown. “We also have three juniors who have stepped up. They are going to be really competitive.”

The senior class has seen varying degrees of playing time over the last two years with Drury playing extensively at the net while Davis, McDannold and Halvorson all played some on the back line.

Juniors Maggie Hatton, Savannah Smith, Lauren Holland and Sydney Pinkston have all seen some varsity playing time with Hatton perhaps being the most athletic player on the Anderson roster. Hatton can play as an outside hitter or a setter.

“I am really expecting big things out of her,” Brown says. “I think she will be one of the determining factors as to how well we do.”

Freshman Kaylie Clark started most matches a year ago and another freshman, Morgan Wells, has shown potential in pre-season.

The key as the Lady Bearcats opened their season Tuesday night at Lexington Christian, is how well the Lady Bearcats accept and adapt to Brown's style, which he says is different than that of his predecessor.

“We play defense a little different as far as our court coverage,” Brown says. “We are pretty aggressive as far as our three defenders on the back row. I like to keep three blockers at the net at all times. We are depending on our three back row players to cover a lot of court.

“We will run a fast-paced offense. It is challenging to the girls, but I think it will benefit them in the long run.”

Watching a Lady Bearcat practice, it is apparent that Brown wants quick, precise passing and speedy defensive reactions. The Lady Bearcats got their first chance to implement Brown's philosophy at the Blue Grass State Games, beating Bishop Brossart before losing to Tates Creek and Henry Clay.

It's also apparent that Brown feels he has a team and program with untapped potential. He knows some about the Anderson program first hand and as an observer. “I coached against a couple of the eighth-grade girls who are now freshmen,” Brown says. “Anderson and Woodford (middle schools) are in different conferences, but we were in a tournament at Washington County last year. I follow high school volleyball, so a lot of the girls on the varsity team, I have seen them play.”

Brown also knows his work is cut out for him. “This job came open here and I was interested in taking it,” he says. “I wanted a challenge so I stepped up and push myself as a coach. I am really excited. I have a good group of girls and I am really looking forward to the season.”

Brown says he has made the transition as easy as the short drive from his home in Versailles. “I am a Bearcat and not a Yellow Jacket,” he says with a smile. “It's only a 10-minute drive across the bridge. Even though I am from Woodford County, Anderson County has always been close to home. I have some family over here, so I am pretty familiar with the community. I am really excited about it.”

The 30th District is very evenly matched with Anderson being eliminated in the first round of the tournament the last two years by Spencer County and Shelby County. Beyond that, Collins has been considered the district's top program over the last few years. The Oldham County schools have dominated the region for years.

“It is a really tough district and tough region,” Brown says. “I look to be competitive. I know Collins has a good team and Shelby County will be good.

“I think we can be really competitive. We have some new energy and I think we can win the district.”

And Brown knows that a victory of that magnitude might be more dependent on believing it is possible than having a team of powerful hitters or quick defenders.”

“It's hard for every team to get past that,” he says. “However, my first year at Woodford Middle, we had the same issue. I walk in and there is not a volleyball banner in the gym. My first season, we hung a banner for the seventh- and eighth-grade teams.

“It's another challenge I am ready for. I believe we can hang up another banner this year.”