By Josh Hall
Whether it is season goals, leadership responsibilities, playing time or work ethic, Purdy High School volleyball coach Ashley Brown wants her team to be accountable.
“It all comes down to what (the players) want to put in,” Brown said in a mid-July phone interview. “They work very hard, and I think they understand they’re in control of their fate. I want them to take pride in Purdy volleyball and what that means, and for them to define those things for themselves. You work harder for it when it’s a goal that you’ve set.”
That philosophy has worked well for Purdy and Brown, who is entering her fourth year at the helm.
In 2014, Brown’s first year, the Lady Eagles were 16-15-4. They went 21-10-5 with a Class 1 district title in 2015.
Last year, Purdy proved it could compete at the Class 2 level in the Lady Eagles’ first season after moving up a Class. They finished the 2016 campaign with an 11-14-4 record after falling to Clever in a Class 2, District 10 semifinal game.
Now, Purdy faces the challenge of replacing four starters, three of whom were all-Ozark 7 Conference selections.
“We’re going to be starting over at a lot of positions,” Brown said. “I really feel confident they’ll step up to that challenge.”
Purdy will be without Hannah White (unanimous first-team all-conference), Carly England (first-team all-conference), Rion Boyd (honorable mention) and Saima Akhtar.
White led the team with 108 kills to go along with 112 digs, while England paced the Lady Eagles with 299 digs and 258 receptions. Boyd tallied a team-high 45 aces, was second with 102 digs and 217 receptions, and third with 71 kills. Akhtar contributed an additional 64 kills.
Returning from a year ago is second-team all-conference selection and senior middle Casey Ellison (91 kills), along with senior outside hitter Cailyn Spears (207 receptions, 138 digs, 65 kills) and senior setter Hallie Henderson (356 assists and 32 aces).
“It’s not a situation where they come in as seniors and it’s the first time they are being asked to lead,” Brown said. “They’ve had lots of experience being asked to lead all the way through, so I’m excited for them take some of these younger kids under their wing and see what they can do.”
Players will compete for the additional starting roles. That core is made up of freshmen and players making the transition to the junior varsity to varsity level.
Brown said three players are in the mix for the starting libero job, while several others are battling for the other outside and middle positions.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Brown said. “It will be interesting.”