Jul. 23—LONDON — Since moving into the 49th District in 2017, the North Laurel Lady Jaguars are winners of four straight district championships.
Scott Croucher's squad reached the 13th Region Tournament semifinals last fall while posting a 9-16 mark, and will look good go even deeper into the postseason this season thanks to another talented group of players returning.
"Returning from last season, we have Alivia Parker who has been starting since she was a freshman at setter. She is now a junior and is one of the most integral parts of our offense," Croucher said. "We lost a couple DS's from last year, but we return Kelsi Howard, a senior now, and we got back Harper Locke, now a senior who did not play last year; both of which are great defensively. We also bring back Maria Yount, who surprised us all with phenomenal play last year as an eighth-grader on the varsity team, she's now a freshman. We return quite a few hitters on offense from last year, just one of which is a senior — Jalynn Vanhook, our right side. We also have Brooke Daniels, Emma Parman, and Jane Locke; all of which have varsity experience and helped us win the district again last year.
"We also have a very large group of up-and-coming players who either played JV last year or are just now coming up their first year from the middle school," he added. "We have multiple seventh and eighth graders who are playing this year as well, looking bright for the future. Overall, we have a very young team and I think we should be in the picture for the district and region championships both this year and into the future."
Croucher said he believes the beginning of the season his team should have some strength in its defensive play.
"We have a lot of experience returning in that aspect," he said. "I do think that, once we get into full swing that our offense has a chance to be something special by the time the kinks, timing, and improvement happens.
"My concerns come with our age and our height," he added. "We have some senior leadership, but we are very young. We also don't have a single player over 5-9, I don't think, that height might be a reach as well.
With what Croucher has called a "packed out" schedule, North Laurel should be battle-Yates throughout the season.
"We have a lot of really good teams on it," he said. "We should be well prepared for what we will see in the postseason.
"We are coming off winning our district again last year and we have a decent shot at grabbing another one," Croucher added. "It's definitely not getting easier each year with teams like Jackson County coming at us every year. The region is a title that has eluded us for the entirety of the history at North Laurel and the entirety of the time I have been there, but we should be right there in the thick of it, like all of the last few years of it. Winning a region title is the goal every year."