As Mason County approaches their ninth season with a volleyball program, 2018 will be the first they’ll have a previous player leading them.
Shelby Hesler was named the next coach of the program on Thursday, replacing Zach Thomas after two seasons with the team. Hesler is a 2014 graduate of Mason County and a former volleyball player for the Lady Royals. Hesler received numerous awards as a player including most blocks and kills throughout her career.
“I am excited to be the new head coach at Mason County where I can not only share my own experiences with assorted coaches, but also work with this great group of girls to keep the program going and help them have an amazing time as a volleyball player here at Mason County,” Hesler said in a press release sent out by the school.
Last season, Hesler was an assistant coach at Farristown Middle School in Berea. She will teach seventh grade social studies at Mason County Middle School.
“We are very excited to welcome back another former Royal into our Athletic Department. Shelby is a phenomenal person and she was a tremendous student when she walked the hallways here at Mason County High School,” Co-Athletic Director Chris Ullery said in the press release. “As one of her former teachers, I couldn’t be happier to welcome her back home. She will be a great example for our young ladies as to how they should conduct themselves on and off the court. Coach Hesler is excited and she will work really hard to continue to build our volleyball program.”
She becomes the fifth coach in the program’s short tenure, one that hopes to get back to their 2014 form of winning a 39th District title, the lone one they’ve had to date. To do so, they’ll need to knock off Bracken County, who’s won the last three.
Based off the 2017 roster, the Lady Royals graduated three seniors and are coming off a 14-19 season. They knocked off St. Patrick in the first round of the district tournament before falling to Bracken County. They’d then lose in the first round of the 10th Region tournament to Harrison County.
Hesler will jump right into it as she met with the team on Thursday and had an open gym shortly after, according to the press release. Monday starts a two-week dead period meaning coaches cannot have any sort of contact with current players in that timeframe. Starting July 15, volleyball teams will be able to start practicing heading towards the fall season. First games can be played August 6, although according to the current KHSAA schedule on the website doesn’t have the Lady Royals first game slated until August 16 at Augusta.
Volleyball is a fast growing sport among high school girls, most recently passing basketball in participation numbers according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. According to 2015-16 numbers from the NFHS, volleyball had 436,309 participants compared to 429,228 in basketball.