By Josh Hall
Pleasant Hope High School volleyball coach Crystal Turner believes her team will be a work in progress this season.
The Lady Pirates lose four seniors from last year’s team that went 9-14-1 after falling to Ash Grove in two sets in the first round of the Class 2 District 12 tournament.
“I think we’re getting there,” Turner said in a mid-July interview. “We’ll be scrappy. We’re going to need to win our games from scrappiness and determination.”
Pleasant Hope took a step forward last season after winning four games in 2014 and three in 2015.
But the Lady Pirates lose 70 percent of their earned points after graduating outside hitter Kimberly Zahner, setter/middle hitter Haley Alshire, outside hitter Rhiannon Labee and middle hitter Emily Gardner.
Zahner, a Mid-Lakes Conference honorable mention selection, led the team with 154 kills to go along with 21 aces, 11 blocks and 28 assists. Alshire paced Pleasant Hope with 166 assists and added 111 kills with 26 aces. Labee had 54 digs, 22 kills, 21 assists and 15 aces, while Gardner finished the year with 53 kills, 46 digs and 16 aces.
“We will need to substitute tenacity for power this season to see success with our mostly-young group,” Turner said. “Three or four of our hitters are going to be freshmen, who are right now working on getting stronger.”
Breanna McNellis is the only senior for the Lady Pirates after leading the team with 105 digs a year ago. The 2017 Missouri State Powerlifting Champion for the unlimited class, McNellis will patrol the outside at 5-foot-5.
“Bre is a great leader and will bring both mental and physical strength to the team,” Turner said. “She’s everywhere and she sets a good example.”
Shayla Howard, a 5-foot-3 junior setter/outside hitter, had 103 assists, 55 digs and 27 aces. Brianna Griffith (5-foot-6) contributed 12 kills from the right side last year, and will be one of a few players competing for time as a middle.
Gwen McClain, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, saw limited time at the varsity level, but could be used to set or play as a middle or outside hitter.
Incoming freshmen that could all be used throughout the season include Karleigh Lane (5-foot-7 middle hitter), Brooklyn Hendrickson (5-foot-3 setter/outside hitter), Mirabella Haney (5-foot-8 outside hitter), Keighlyn Johnson (5-foot-4 setter/outside hitter) and Jayden Marshall (5-foot-1 outside hitter/libero).
“I think we will be a work in progress,” Turner said.