By Josh Hall
Despite losing six seniors from last year’s team that went 20-10-2 after falling to Hillcrest in a Class 4 District 10 semifinal game, the Lebanon High School volleyball team doesn’t enter the 2017 season as an inexperienced group.
The Lady Jackets have seven seniors and four juniors that will compete for playing time to earn a spot on the floor.
“We’re trying out a lot of different players in some different positions to see who’s making the plays,” Lebanon head coach Jenny Collins said during a June tournament.
Collins is a firm believer in not becoming content and wants to see her team improve each day.
“I think it makes them have to stay on top of their game – seniors or juniors, and we have young sophomores that are hungry, too,” Collins said. “They’ve just got to continue to put forth their best effort and make tough plays, not hesitate, be aggressive and finish.”
The Lady Jackets lose two key pieces from last year’s team in first-team all-Ozark Conference selection Faith Alwardt and second-team selection Haddi Luthy.
But Lebanon returns several players that gained significant experience in 2016.
Jazzlyn Wells, a second team all-district and second team all-conference selection at libero, returns after leading the team with 340 digs as a junior. In two seasons at libero, Wells has compiled 700 digs. Collins said Wells has displayed her versatility on the floor and could play any position this season.
“She takes on any challenge and is the team encourager,” Collins said.
Carsyn Bowman (senior) is expected to resume her role as Lebanon’s setter after doing so as a junior. Bowman was recovering from an ACL injury during the summer, but is on pace to make a return by the start of the season.
As a sophomore last season, Katie Esther displayed some big hitter ammo from the outside, finishing second in kills behind Alwardt. Last season, Esther was a first team all-district and second team all-conference selection.
“We are looking for her to continue to deliver for us this season,” Collins said.
Cori Johnson is another junior that saw significant playing time as a sophomore. Last season, Johnson played at the net on the right side, but is expected to see action as a middle and outside hitter.
“She is a fearless competitor and will do whatever it takes to up her overall game play,” Collins said. “She has shown during the month of June that she will be a force at the net in both attacking and blocking.”
Taylor Bowling (junior setter), Korrie Brinton (senior outside hitter), Skyler Hough (junior defensive specialist) are new to the mix this season and could all receive significant playing time.
Seniors Mackenzie Jacobs, Presley Groce, Jodie Fox and Alyssa Wright are also in the mix.
“At this time, there have been several different line-up options and we are still working through them to find our best combinations and put our strongest team out on the floor,” Collins said. “It is a process to break down and work to fine tune each rotation.”