With new coach, Ladycats ready for the next level

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By Tommie Kendall

Sports editor

Finishing last season with an impressive 24 wins and winning their fourth straight 31st District title, the Henry County Ladycats are now ready to make the jump to the next level. Matt Wright, who was named Suzanne Cates’ replacement after her resignation, is the one in charge to get the job done.

What exactly is that next level for a team that has been one of the most successful programs in the county over the last five seasons? Winning a fifth consecutive district title and reaching the finals of the 8th Region tournament are the main objectives for 2010, with a possible trip to the state tournament. While they have won the district tourney each year since making the switch from the 30th District in 2006, the Ladycats have never won more than one game in the regional tournament.

“We want to take the next step up this year by reaching that regional finals. And once we’re there, anything can happen,” said Wright, who was the assistant coach for the Ladycats from 2006-2008 and was named the new head coach last July. “The future of this program is we’re ultimately trying to reach the state tournament. That’s our long-term goal as a program. We’ve been talking about the differences of being a good team and a great team just about every day, and we want to become a great team.”

With Cates in charge, the Ladycats finished 24-12 overall last spring, won the 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament, finished fourth in the All “A” State Tournament for the smallest 125 schools in Kentucky, won the district title and lost to Walton-Verona in the first round of the regional tournament. After her one season as coach, Cates decided to back away from her position. One month later, Wright was hired.

While a majority of Henry’s key players returned from last season, Wright said he is mixing up things a little. The schedule, which Cates set up before she left, is much tougher with top-25 ranked teams and a few top-10 teams; Wright is trying to have a more structured off-season program which he started this winter; and Wright is enforcing stricter discipline which he feels will help propell the players.

“Right now, we’re focusing on the little things that it will take to get to that next level,” Wright said.

Entering the first week of games, Henry’s lineup both defensively and offensively is not set yet. But Karie Powell, the team’s lone senior, will fill one of the middle infield positions, Ally Vaughn will most likely play shortstop, Amanda Wilson will be behind the plate at catcher, Veronica Hornback will be in centerfield and Jessica Booher returns as the team’s top pitcher. Vaughn was named All-State Second Team last spring as a freshman and will provide a lot of power at the plate.

“We seem to do everything well but nothing really great,” said Wright, who warned this year’s team might not win as many games as last year with a tougher schedule. He hopes to be more prepared for the postseason. “We have the ability to score runs and play well defensively. There’s 3-4 girls still competing for spots.”

Henry has scrimmaged Sacred Heart and Garrard County, and opened the season at home against Jeffersontown on Monday. Against Sacred Heart, the Ladycats had just one error and won 10-1.

After their season opener against Jeffersontown, the Ladycats played Carroll County on Tuesday and plays Gallatin County on Thursday and Harrison County on Saturday with their opening four-game stretch all at home. The all-important district and regional tournament will start in late May.