By Josh Hall
The Nixa High School volleyball team has had solid seasons under fourth-year coach Annie Zimmerman.
But Zimmerman and the Lady Eagles hope to take their game to the next level in 2017.
“We expect to make a big run for conference and for districts,” Zimmerman said in June. “That’s what we always set our sights on.”
Nixa went 19-14 last season and 6-2 in the Central Ozark Conference-Large Division after falling to Kickapoo in a Class 4, District 11 semifinal. The Lady Eagles finished 29-3-1 in 2015 after losing to Ozark in three sets in the district title game.
“We always try to give ourselves high expectations,” Zimmerman said. “We know we’re in undoubtedly one of the toughest conferences and one of the toughest districts, so we know that’s not an easy task, but we always set that as our goals at the beginning of the season.”
Nixa is in a good position to achieve its goals this season. The Lady Eagles only graduated one senior from last year’s team in first-team all-conference selection Alissa Flint, who led Nixa with 198 kills and was second with 43 blocks. She also recorded 248 digs.
The Lady Eagles will have a senior-laden team in 2017.
Nixa returns first-team all-conference setter/outside hitter Taylor Gregory, who led the team with 387 assists. As a junior Gregory also recorded 108 kills and 275 digs.
Fellow senior Regan Ansley, an honorable mention all-conference pick, was second on the team last year with 169 kills and 38 blocks.
Senior second-team all-conference libero Madison Grantham is another strong returner after leading the Lady Eagles in digs (477), receptions (471) and aces (24).
As a sophomore, Taylor Arnold tallied 268 assists and 102 digs. Ciera Reyes also gained valuable experience her sophomore year with 89 kills as an outside hitter.
New to the mix will be sophomore outside hitter Kenzie Hines and sophomore defensive specialist Lexie Gregory.
“I think our strength is just our overall defensive group,” Zimmerman said. “They read things well. I think that’s where our strength is now. We’re going to have to get a little stronger with our play at the net, blocking is going to have to improve.”