By Chris Parker
East Newton has a new head coach leading the way in Ashley Brown this season. Brown, an East Newton alum, jumped at the chance to coach for her alma mater.
“The long and short of it is, East Newton is home. My husband and I are both graduates of EN and the idea of coming home and making an impact in the community we were raised in was important to our family. The right opportunity with the right timing aligned and here we are,” Brown said.
East Newton will be looking to bounce back from a 4-25 overall record last season.
Senior Ellie Enlow is the top returning player after she earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season. She had 84 kills as a junior.
“She has been an impact player from an early age and I look forward to seeing her contribute her skill and leadership abilities to our varsity team,” Brown said.
Cailyn Ferguson is a senior utility player who will contribute in a number of ways. Alyssa Coffey is a junior returning middle blocker. Sophomores Lilly Korn and Kennedy Lucke will look to contribute at outside hitter and setter, respectively. Junior Norah Lucke rounds out the returning players bringing experience to the back row on defense.
There will be a host of newcomers for East Newton after softball decided to move its season to the spring.
Seniors Katie Kester and Maci Renner along with juniors Kenzie Massey, Ashlyn Hatfield and Mariah Alday and sophomore Josie Guinn are all new players to watch on the varsity level for East Newton.
Due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, Brown only got to meet her team in June after announcing she was taking the job in March.
“It (COVID-19) has definitely presented challenges. The first being my ability to meet them. I announced that I was ‘coming home’ in March and wasn’t able to meet the team officially until June,” Brown said. “However, it has afforded us some early opportunities to overcome obstacles, learn to communicate effectively, and make the most of our time together. I think we are just learning to take things day by day and control the controllables.”
Another challenge this season will be adjusting to a best-of-five set format from the past best-of-three set format Missouri operated under.
“It (best-of-five sets) will be a new challenge. For most of these girls it will be a new test of endurance and game management will look different from a coach’s perspective as well,” Brown said. “I think it is good overall. It is tough to believe Missouri was ‘behind’ being one of the last states to move to three out of five. But we are here and it will be a good learning experience for us all.”
East Newton opens the season on Sept. 1 at Purdy.
“My expectations are high but they are focused on us, if that makes sense. Our program is making a big overhaul. Not just with a new coaching staff but two-thirds of our team is ‘new’ to the scene this year whether that be freshmen or just kids who were playing softball that now can do both,” Brown said. “We have a lot of learning to do and we have a high standard on and off the court that I want to see for EN Volleyball as we turn this corner on a new season.”