- By Jeff Gilbert Contributing Writer
Megan Beal doesn’t remember attending her first Kenton Ridge High School girls volleyball game. She’s been told she was 2 weeks old. Her mom, Lori Saunders, was the coach.
As a second-grader she told her mom, “I will never play volleyball ever,” but she couldn’t avoid the pull of the sport.
Beal had other interests in the second grade so her mom gave up coaching. But when it was time for Beal’s senior volleyball season in 2007, she asked her mom to come back and coach. Saunders did and stayed until 2014 to complete a total of 21 successful years as head coach.
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Not only did that second-grader grow up to play in high school, she played at Wilmington College and became a coach. After coaching club teams and spending the 2014 season as head coach at Wilmington High School, Beal came home to Kenton Ridge to teach and be Angie Arthur’s assistant for three successful seasons. Now Beal is the head coach.
“I have a lot of high expectations for myself as a coach because I’m following in mom’s footsteps,” Beal said.
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Saunders’ teams of the 1980s and ’90s were punctuated by a trip to the state tournament in 1992. In her final season of 2014, Saunders won the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division, advanced to the regional final and finished 24-3. The Cougars’ season ended in a loss to Kettering Alter in Wilmington, denying Saunders a second state berth.
Arthur took over and had seasons of 19-7, 20-5 and 24-4. She won one league title and reached the regional final last year. It was Alter again that ended the Cougars’ season.
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Beal’s team won its opener last week over CBC newcomer North Union. The Cougars have a mix of experience and youth as they attempt to continue a string of five straight district tournament appearances and shoot for a fourth league title in six years.
“I care about the program and I want to see it at its best,” Beal said. “We have some great girls to maintain our tradition.”
Four experienced seniors are expected to lead the Cougars. In the middle of everything that happens is setter Lexee Trainer, a fourth-year starter.
“She has a big role and has always done a good job in her role,” Beal said. “I’m excited to see her finish out her senior year.”
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Mikala Morris, a 6-foot-2 Division I basketball prospect, is another fourth-year starter and has been one of the CBC’s top hitters on the right side.
“She’s a powerhouse for us who does a great job,” Beal said.
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The other seniors are Mallory Armentrout, who was a middle hitter last year in her first varsity season, and Britney Remley, who has varsity experience as an outside hitter.
“I know these seniors are hungry and they have very high expectations,” Beal said. “And they do a great job of making those underclassmen know that this is the expectation of Kenton Ridge volleyball.”
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Most of the youth comes at the defensive specialist positions. Brynn Williams is a sophomore who played DS last year and served as a hitter as well. She is Beal’s utility player. The other DS players are junior Abby Simons, sophomores Haley Foreman and Leah Adams and freshman Alivia Lemen. Brantley Coulter is a sophomore hitter.
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“The potential is there,” Beal said. “Are they going to reach it? I believe that they can, and I hope that they will.”
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