Note: This sports story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 14 newspaper on Page B1.
WELLSTON — To say that Wellston is going to look very different is a major understatement.
After finishing 10-14 last season, the Golden Rockets said goodbye to nine graduating seniors, and the team’s head coach left the program after a long tenure.
Now the program is under the direction of Holly Pettet, who is entering her first year as a first-time varsity head coach.
“We had open gym and summer league, which helped me sort of settle into my role as coach now,” Pettet said. “It’s a little nerve-wracking, honestly, because it’s such a big job and there’s a lot of things that go into it. But I’m excited to finally get the ball rolling and get the season started.”
Pettet acknowledged that Wellston has a huge mountain to climb just to get back to the level it was last season.
Those nine seniors played every position except setter and provided leadership, depth and experience, which isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to replace.
But luckily, those two setters are back in sophomores Navaeh Ousley (295 assists, 60 digs, 14 aces) and Kamryn Karr (252 assists, 118 digs, 26 aces).
“There’s no seniors or juniors on this team that played varsity last season,” Pettet said. “Good thing for us is that our setters are back to lead us this season. We’re a very young team, which is probably good. It’s almost like a brand new start for them and the program.”
Sadie Henry returns to the net as the Golden Rockets’ most returning productive player after notching 77 digs, 70 kills and a team-high 42 aces last season.
Pettet also raved about Sydney Spencer not just as a player but as a leader during practice throughout the summer.
“We did a drill and a girl was struggling to finish,” Pettet said. “Sydney not only encouraged her to continue going but actually went beside her and finished the drill with her. That is the type of leadership that I want to see.”
After tasting the success of winning seasons, the Golden Rockets fell off a little bit by posting back-to-back season of 10-13 and 10-14.
It’s going to be a major adjustment as they’ll trot out three freshmen in the back row, but with games come experience. And as some point, experience translates to winning.
“Our fundamentals have improved so much from where we started back in March,” Pettet said. “That’s how games are won, by being the most fundamentally sound team. I came in thinking that if we went .500, I’d be happy. Then I started watching us play and realized that we have the talent to compete for a sectional title. The girls work hard and we’re changing the mentality of the program this year.”