By Chris Parker
Licking volleyball has a new head coach this season in Ashley Martin. Martin is entering her first season coaching high school volleyball, but she is an experienced coach at the club level.
She excited for the opportunity to head up the Licking program.
“I’ve always had a passion for volleyball, whether I was playing or coaching, so when the opportunity presented itself in the district, I jumped at it,” Martin said.
She takes over a Licking program coming off one of the best seasons in program history. The Lady Wildcats won 27 matches last year and finished 27-5-1 overall. It was the second consecutive season with at least 24 wins.
Martin will look to keep that strong run going.
“If we are going to continue to have a winning season, we’re going to have to stay mentally tough and play as one unit,” Martin said. “When everyone has the same goal in mind magic happens.”
Maddy Cole returns for Licking after leading the team in kills last season with 162.
“Maddy is extremely athletic and is good about taking smart shots on the outside. I have no doubt that she’ll continue to do just that for us this season,” Martin said.
Twin sister Abby Cole is also back orchestrating the offense at setter. She had 527 of Licking’s 608 assists last season.
“We have been working really hard with Abby on beating the ball to the spot and getting her hips around to target to ensure location is on point for our attackers. Her hands are consistent, and she does a great job of setting our offense up for success,” Martin said.
Having identical twins as a setting-hitting duo has its advantages according to Martin.
“Maddy and Abby are identical twins, which is always fun to watch opponents try to figure that out. Sometimes I’m even caught off guard and have to search for Maddy’s distinct braid and dominant left hand. They definitely have the twin-brain thing going on and finish each other’s thoughts. It’s fun to watch them play together,” Martin said.
Abagail Moncrief (middle), Ashley Creek (outside hitter) and Maggie Cline (middle) give Martin a strong five-player senior class to lean on in her first season as head coach. Moncrief was second on the team in kills in 2018 with 152.
“Abagail Moncrief is a force to be reckoned with. She’s insanely strong and quick. She’s going to do great things in the middle for us. Ashley Creek has one of the hardest serves to pass that I’ve seen in a while. She’s solid on defense and serve receive, always stays cool, calm, and collected. Maggie Cline continues to dominate the front row. You can literally put her wherever you need to and she can put a ball away. She’s a great player and even better teammate. She’s always upbeat and pumps everyone up,” Martin said.
Junior Kam Barnes (outside hitter) along with sophomores Kylie Taylor (libero) and Kasey Richards (setter) round out the returning varsity lineup for Licking. Barnes had 110 kills last year for Licking. Taylor led the Lady Wildcats in digs (311) and serve-receives (391) in 2018.
“Kam Barnes blows my mind. She is so explosive and her swing is powerful and quick. She’s going to be hard to stop on the outside. Kylie Taylor is clutch. She can play every position and play it well. The amount of ball control that she has is insane, and her knowledge of the game is outstanding. She makes good reads and I trust her to run serve receive. I’m really excited to watch her defense this year. Kasey Richards is such an athlete. She’s extremely fast and can get to the ball quick. She’s young, but she will catch on fast with the amount of leadership that surrounds her,” Martin said.
Sophomore Kiley Ingram and freshmen Maci Sparks and Abbie Sullins will also compete for varsity time.
All the players have a lot of familiarity with each other after playing together for much of their lives.
“Our team’s biggest strength is that they’ve played together since they were in elementary. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and they’re a tightknit group. They all get along and we’ve had big talks about what this season could potentially look like. They have a lot of talent and I’m excited to see what they do with it,” Martin said.
Martin will be looking to help Licking to not only a successful regular season but also a deeper postseason run than in the recent past.
“Our expectations for this season are high. We know things aren’t going to be easy, but we know we’re talented enough to win big games. The last few years, they’ve had good runs during season but haven’t won big games at the end when it matters. We’re hoping to change that,” Martin said.
Licking opens the season on Sept. 3 at Houston.