HARNER: New season brings hope for more breakout performers

Though there weren’t any dominating teams in Vandalia during the fall season last year, the amount of breakout performers was hard to ignore.

Each of the five fall sports offered at Vandalia Community High School saw at least one player exceed expectations, and each of those athletes return to his of her respective sport this season, so we get to see their continued improvement as well as look for new surprises.

With official practices for all sports opening this week, the quest for success is just beginning, and the drama will continue to unfold until the end of October.

The biggest breakout from last fall was easily Hannah Blythe, who won 20 matches and qualified for the state tennis tournament as a sophomore after going 6-11 in her freshman season.

She trains year-round, and has participated in numerous tournaments in the offseason in preparation for defending her South Central Conference singles title and improving on her 1-2 mark at the state tournament.

Bobby Bradley wasn’t a factor in the running game in the first football game of his sophomore season, but he soon became a bruising running back who could be in line to rush for 1,000 yards as a junior.

Bradley gained 805 yards and seven touchdowns on 102 carries in the final eight games of the season, breaking out for 205 yards and four touchdowns in week seven, all after contributing just one reception for 13 yards in week one.

Mercedes Reynolds had just two kills through the first seven volleyball games last fall, but recorded 40 over the next seven, as she became a key member of the team’s front row.

She closed her junior year with 12 kills in the final three matches, hopefully propelling her into a big senior year as the Lady Vandals look to get back to 20 wins following a 15-14 season.

Austin Durbin is a prototypical soccer player, but he didn’t join the team until last fall as a junior.

He fit in immediately, scoring six of the team’s 26 goals and assisting on two others, and his eyes are set on exceeding those statistics this fall, even though he may be in a different role after the graduation of several starters.

For the golf team, a freshman improved steadily throughout the year to cement his place as a regular in Vandalia’s varsity lineup.

Levi Cox shot a 61 in the first two nine-hole events of his career, and after sitting out the next match, he posted a 47 in the first home event of the season.

Cox had two other rounds in the 40s throughout the rest of the season, with a low round of 40 coming at Ramsey late in the year, and his average stroke count of 55.75 is sure to drop during his sophomore year.

There’s no telling who will break out for each of these teams in the fall of 2014, but with the mix of youth and veterans on all five teams, there should be some exciting players that none of us saw coming.

Andrew Harner

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