The building of Lady Cougar volleyball into a program that can compete with any team of any size in the area either follows the blueprint for success or has rewritten and perfected the plan.
Ever since Logan started the sport in the fall of 2000, progress has been made at every step along the way. Keys have been a dedicated coaching staff that is perfectly happy to share the glory, making the game fun to play, developing the middle school program, and adding a summer club program.
It's no wonder Coach Tina Phelps' team has been regional runner-up the past two season to two different teams and that the Lady Cougars are competitive again this year, since LCHS had only one senior last year and she didn't start. And Becca Grayson, the best setter in the region the past two years, is back for her junior season.
What's impressive is that the veterans are being pushed for playing time by younger players. Sophomore Jamie Wilkins has become the dominant front-line player, yet her former Lewisburg teammate, Jessica Cole, is pushing her and seniors April Cain, Shantel Jones and Nadia Kowal for varsity playing time.
Fellow seniors Whitney White and Addie Wilson, who have started four and three years, respectively, still are playing very well, as was classmate Myranda Holder before she became ill. But they are being pushed by younger players such as Lora Miller, Brittany Roark and Devin Brown.
Even more impressive is that the two younger teams are both undefeated with the junior varsity 13-0 and the freshmen 10-0. Freshmen like Nikki Piper, Erica Meguiar, Brooke Kelley, Michelle Belt and Jenna Wilson are challenging sophomores Whitley Thompson, Tabby Simmons, Marie Weldon, Cole and Miller and junior Erin Wilson for JV time.
The most impressive thing yet, though, was the freshmen's performance in the Owensboro Apollo Tournament last week. They swept all four Owensboro teams in straight-game matches for that championship. Four years ago, Logan couldn't compete with the Owensboro teams.
The program continues to grow.
- Seventy years ago yesterday, the Panthers played their first-ever football game. Three weeks later, they played Franklin.
Ever since, there have been highs and lows in the Panther program. Franklin teams have caused many of the lows.
Russellville's football team is much improved not over last year but also over the past several years. They went 3-0 as they dominated two teams impressively and won their other start by a big margin over a Logan County team that out-gained them in total offense.
They're quick, enthusiastic, and athletic.
But Franklin-Simpson burst the bubble many Panther fans had surrounding them Friday. The Wildcats were the superior team. They had as many quick, athletic players as does RHS, and their line was far superior to the Panthers' in football skills.
Russellville has been excelling with guys in key positions who have little or no football experience. Franklin exploited that lack of experience, especially against junior quarterback Jordan Hinton, who had never played football in high school until a month ago. In the first three games, Hinton only had to make sure the other guys were doing their jobs right. This time he had to produce, and it was obvious there's a lot more work to be done until his football savvy matches his considerable athletic skills.
Friday's game should not cause the team nor its fans to give up. Russellville doesn't have to beat the Franklin-Simpsons of high school football to have a super Class A season. In fact, there are no other teams comparable to F-S on their schedule.
Russellville has won state championships in seasons that it lost to F-S. It could happen again, although there's a lot of work that has to be done in a hurry.
You can hear know-it-alls spouting a lot of nonsense as the result of a lopsided loss. They criticize the coaches' play-calling. They bad-mouth individual player's performances. They question the entire team's desire and intensity. They didn't understand why the Panthers could play so well against the first three teams and not against Franklin.
John Myers is an excellent coach, but he's not a miracle worker. The Panthers got to 3-0 by his putting the right players on the field and helping them improve as football players. Coaches and players had worked hard to reach that juncture. By the time the Panthers reach those two all-important regular season-ending district games with Hancock County and Crittenden County and the playoffs, they'll be much better than they are now.
It's important that Russellville fans support them as they move up the ladder of success, much the way Logan County volleyball has progressed the past six years.
- Congratulations to Logan County's Joseph Jefferson, whose first start for Indianapolis Sunday night was marked by the Colts' defense coming within 13 seconds of their first shutout in 115 games. Joseph is going to get better and better at safety.
Also pats on the back to Western's football team for a last-second win over Eastern, to Eastern for making a thrilling game out of one that was supposed to be one-sided, to Kentucky for a great showing against Louisville last week and a win this week, and to Vanderbilt for its 2-0 start, including a win over Arkansas Saturday after Razorback coach Houston Nutt (formerly of Murray) complained last year about it not being fair that "Vanderbilt's not on our schedule."