Photo by Brian Paglia
Dutchtown senior libero Kathlyn Moriles helped guide the Lady Bulldogs to the Elite 8 in 2009. Now, she’s helping guide a young team that’s ranked No. 7 in Class AAAA.
Dutchtown volleyball is still wrapping its head around everything that’s changed before Tuesday’s season-opener at Jonesboro — the graduated seniors replaced by young talent, the new formations and the pre-season state ranking.
The Lady Bulldogs are ranked No. 7 in the first PrepCountry.com/GACA Coaches Poll in the new-look Class AAAA.
It’s true, even if Dutchtown coach Helen Moncrief can’t believe it.
“That’s new to me,” Moncrief said.
From the outside looking in, Dutchtown’s ranking makes sense with the Lady Bulldogs coming off an 18-11 season and returning a solid senior core of outside hitter Aiesha Crawford, libero Kathlyn Moriles, defensive specialist Maryann Perez and middle hitter Tyler Terry.
But according to Moncrief, the Lady Bulldogs aren’t interested in state rankings and peripheral expectations, because Dutchtown is a team in transition.
“We have a different team this year,” said Moncrief, who’s going into her third year as head coach. “There’s a whole new dynamic.”
Dutchtown is now three seasons removed from a historical 2009 season. The Lady Buldogs went 26-18 and was one of three teams (Jonesboro, Ola) coming out of Area 4-AAAA to reach the state quarterfinals.
Moncrief took over as head coach the next season and has been searching for the same team chemistry that turned the Lady Bulldogs into a dangerous opponent in 2009.
Moncrief felt she’d finally found it last year. Filled with seniors and juniors, Dutchtown took a step forward, but still felt short of the state playoffs.
“Last year, the girls really worked well together,” Moncrief said. “They had a good rhythm on the court.”
With the graduation of five seniors, Dutchtown is counting on an inexperienced group of underclassmen to keep the Lady Bulldogs competitive.
Sophomore setter Han Bui moved up from junior varsity, while freshmen Devynn Anderson and Tasiya Rodriguez are making the leap from middle school straight to varsity.
It means the Lady Bulldogs are building a team on the fly, no matter what the rankings say.
“One of frustrations is not having played together as a team before,” Moncrief said. “We’re still trying to figure out that rhythm.”
They got their first test right away playing a familiar opponent in No. 9-ranked Jonesboro on the road.
It was a performance of highs and lows. Dutchtown fell 25-18 in the first game, bounced back to take the second game 25-16 and then seemingly fell apart as the Lady Cardinals pulled away to a 15-3 lead and never looked back.
Clearly, Dutchtown is still a team searching for its rhythm.
“Before it took three years,” Moncrief said. “I’m hoping it’s takes two days [this season].”