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Morristown volleyball welcomes new head coach

Stephanie Clayton, pictured with her husband Matt, has been named the new head volleyball coach for the Morristown Yellow Jackets. Clayton graduated from MHS in 2009.

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

MORRISTOWN — Stephanie Clayton learned from one of the best.

A 2009 Morristown graduate, Clayton (formerly Smith), played volleyball under Yellow Jacket legend Rita Rouse, who entered the Morristown Hall of Fame this year for helping the program win state, among other achievements, during the 2003 season.

Rouse’s list of accomplishments at the school is long and because of her, according to Clayton, the first-year head coach is fully prepared to lead a varsity team.

Clayton has spent recent seasons coaching junior high, high school and club volleyball at Morristown. She replaces former head coach Kellie Kuhn.

“I have gotten to work with almost everyone on the team sometime throughout their career,” Clayton said. “I think that helped with the transition.

“I played under coach Coach Rouse. Playing under her, in my opinion she is one of the best, and being around the program she built really helped me see and understand what it takes (to run a successful program). I think it would have taken much longer to unlock. Her work has definitely inspired me.”

Clayton and the Yellow Jackets lost five valuable seniors from last season but return four seniors in a new campaign. Raegan Butcher and Kenzie Logan return with the most experience in the senior class, but Lily White and Lilli Thompson both played last year and will see their roles increase.

Butcher, a springy athlete, led Morristown with 232 kills as a junior. She added 173 digs and 51 aces.

“(Butcher) has good, aggressive instincts in the front row,” Clayton said. “I think that will help the other players in the front. She can really light it up.”

Logan, a quick tennis and basketball player, will give the team stability in the back row. She finished with 151 digs as a junior.

“(Logan) has worked really hard on tracking and (seeing) the movement of the ball,” Clayton said of the defensive specialist. “I am happy with how she has progressed.”

White and Thompson (outside hitters), although logging limited minutes as juniors, bring leadership to the team. Both girls have been encouraging teammates in early practices this season.

“It is fun to watch them (Thompson and White) interact with their teammates,” Clayton said.

Another key player for Morristown will be junior Allison Warfield, who played in 83 sets last season. She will move from the back to front row. Junior Blaire Harriman, moving up from the junior varsity, will be the team’s libero.

Sophomore Emma Theobald was with the program last year but played in just 19 sets as a freshman. She is a determined worker, according to Clayton, and will be the team’s setter this season, replacing Patience Wood.

Alayna Munson, Grace Young, Kat Parker and Abby Carpenter were also lost to graduation. Carpenter's little sister, Kenley, transferred to Greenfield-Central.

Freshman Gracie Laster, who is the brother of basketball standout Logan Laster, is expected to contribute in her first season playing varsity.

“We did have a large graduating class and two others transferred,” Clayton said. “But we still have a lot of girls returning with varsity experience. I think that challenged the girls this summer. Some have already gotten a taste of what to expect.”

Morristown finished the 2017 season 17-12 with a 6-2 mark in the Mid-Hoosier Conference. In order to keep the winning tradition alive, Clayton said the team is focusing on playing sound, fundamental volleyball.

“We want to take it back to basics, but we also want to be aggressive in our play,” Clayton said. “Above all, we just want to finish the season with a love for the game.”

The Yellow Jackets open their season on Saturday with the Morristown Classic.

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.

Morristown Yellow Jackets

2017 Record: 17-12, 6-2 in MHC

Returning Players: Raegan Butcher, Kenzie Logan, Allison Warfield, Lily White, Lilli Thompson.

Top Newcomers: Emma Theobald, Gracie Laster, Blaire Harriman.