After falling in straight sets to eventual state runner-up Notre Dame Academy (33-6) in the KHSAA state volleyball semifinals — 25-18, 25-21, 25-13 — on Saturday afternoon, West Jessamine’s players held their heads high.
Surrounded by proud, cheering supporters decked out in red and blue at the George Rogers Clark High School gym, the Colts spent three difficult sets — and a massively successful 32-10 season — doing exactly what they always try to do: For West Jessamine volleyball, it’s all about coming together as a team.
And, for years now, that charge has been led by a core group of seven impressive seniors — Abi Bruner, Rebekah Buchholz, Sam Furnish, Katharine Henson, Delia Long, Aidan Mitchell and Riley Snowden — who, after the hardfought loss which closed their final season, will have to say goodbye.
Bruner, an all-tournament team selection alongside Snowden, said though it wasn’t the ending the Colts had hoped for, the triumphs that brought them up to this point made her proud.
“I think it was probably the best season we’ve ever had,” Bruner said. “I mean, the seniors, we all came together at the end of the season. We were the last public school in the tournament. Like, this is what we worked for all season. Obviously, we would have loved to be in the state championship, but I mean, I think we played our hearts out and I don’t think we left anything on that court. So I’m really proud of our team.”
No. 2 Assumption (36-5) defeated Mercy (22-21) 3-0 in Saturday’s other semifinal. The Rockets went on to defeat the top-ranked Pandas, who knocked them out in last year’s tournament semifinal on the path to the title, in four sets — 25-19, 24-26, 25-11, 25-20 — on Saturday night. It was the Assumption’s 23rd state championship, and its first since 2020.
This wasn’t the first time West Jessamine, or its seniors, made it here. Back in 2020, when they were experiencing the postseason as freshmen, West Jessamine made it just as far before Notre Dame defeated the Colts in four sets.
At the helm of West Jessamine volleyball since 2014, coach William Bird has worked to guide the program to success. But if you were to ask him how the Colts reached these heights, he’d tell you that much of that can be credited to the seniors.
“They mean everything to the team,” Bird said. “Even to the underclassmen. They’ve been such great leaders and such mentors. They are everything about West Jessamine. I mean, the way they carry themselves, the way they play on the court, just the way they treat the underclassmen. They’re just great mentors. They’re great people. I just hate it for them, but on the other end, I’m just so proud of them. So happy to go to experience this.”
What’s different about this roster, which immediately came together for a huddle after the match had been decided? This team that had a large, loud group of fans enthusiastically shouting throughout the three sets regardless of which team held the momentum? This group of players that had their coaching staff smiling with pride once it was all said and done?
“I’ve coached a lot of teams over the years,” Bird said. “And this team, with this group of seniors, I’ve been so close with them. I haven’t had as much fun as I’ve had with a team as I have with this. I’ve been with them so long, they’ve been with me, they’re like daughters.”
The Colts, ranked 13th, began their week Monday with a first-round upset (21-25, 25-11, 25-15, 11-25, 15-13) at home against No. 3 Paul Laurence Dunbar (33-8). On Friday night, West Jessamine defeated Logan County in three sets (25-22, 25-19, 26-24).
West Jessamine volleyball will now turn to a new chapter.
“It’s gonna be really hard for the seniors,” Bruner said. “We’re not gonna get to play together again, but we really held each other up. And even though we lost, everyone was still kind to each other. And we just came together as a team.”
Long is committed to play volleyball at Centre College. Mitchell is committed to play at Saint Francis University.