By Josh Hall
During summer practices and leagues, Strafford High School volleyball coach Ashley Bough can bring up one experience when she sees her team lagging.
She doesn’t do it to be mean, but uses it to motivate the Lady Indians when they need it.
Last season Strafford finished the year with a 31-1-1 after falling to MV-BT-Liberty in a Class 2 quarterfinal. By no means was it a down year for the Lady Indians, but they had plans of advancing farther than they did in 2016.
That’s when the off-season motivation comes in.
“It’s still one of those raw subjects to bring up,” Bough said. “You can tell by the looks on their faces and their demeanor that meant something to them, which is great as a coach because you can use that to light a fire underneath them.”
Despite losing three key players from last year’s team, Strafford still has high hopes entering the 2017 campaign.
Gracie Morton, Rilie Vote and Jessica Allen all graduated after leading the Lady Indians in multiple categories a year ago. Morton was the assists leader with 536. Vote recorded a team-high 296 kills and Jessica Allen led with 53 blocks and 43 kills.
“I’m super proud of those girls,” Bough said. “It obviously didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but there’s a lot more to be proud of then disappointed about.”
This season, Strafford has a lot to be excited about.
The Lady Indians return first-team all-state selection Chloe Rear. After switching to more of an attacking role in 2016, Rear, a Missouri State signee, still accounted for 130 assists, to go along with 251 kills and 154 digs.
Rear will be joined by University of Arkansas signee Madi Bowles, a senior who transferred to Strafford from Kickapoo during the summer. Bowles, an outside hitter last year, compiled 179 kills as a junior at Kickapoo.
Junior Ali Nichols returns at Libero for Strafford after leading the team with 216 digs and 298 receptions a year ago. Also returning is Tori Schoen (junior DS), Karly Soden (senior OH/RSH), Emma Webb (senior RSH) and Junior Tessa McMillen.
New to the mix are juniors Katie Waitman, Kaitlyn Messina and Grace Tillman, along with sophomores Kaitlyn Messina, Mica Chadwell, Kaitlyn Vote and Sue Wiertzema.
“We’ll be a little bit raw at first, but one thing I always take pride in is how hard my kids work,” Bough said. “If they continue to do that, we’ll have some definite progress this year and hopefully it will turn out the way we want to in the end.”