By Josh Hall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Carthage High School volleyball coach Tony Allmoslecher could have easily said the Lady Tigers will be going through a building year in 2017.
Despite graduating seven seniors from last year’s team that went 28-9 last season after falling to Blue Spring in three sets in a Class 4 quarterfinal game, Allmoslecher still expects Carthage to play at high level.
“I still have very high expectations for our team this year,” he said. “There’s no reason not to have the same kind of expectations as far as excellence and having good seasons.”
“Excellence” was a word Allmoslecher used often during an Aug. 11 phone interview.
“We talked a lot about excellence — aiming at excellence as a goal. We tried to achieve that in practice,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see that excellence translate to the game. Up to this point we’ve really just talked a lot about excellence.”
While the Lady Tigers strive for excellence, they still face the task of replacing a veteran group that won close to 30 games a year ago.
Among the seven seniors gone to graduation is First-Team All-COC Large selection Savannah Downing. Carthage also loses honorable-mention all-state selection Kiley Tiller.
Lady Tigers will also have to replace starting libero Marley Hensely. Maddie Burt and Lanae Collier also played significant roles for Carthage last season. Now the Lady Tigers face the task of finding those players.
And they’ll have to do it without a single senior on the roster.
“I still have very high expectations,” Allmoslecher said. “We have a really solid junior class coming in. Four of them actually got a lot of varsity experience and played a big role in that season last year. We’re building the team around them and their experience.”
Ava Petticrew started as an outside hitter last year as a sophomore and will resume that role again this season, while Jillian Brunnert will replace Downing as the team’s libero after playing a defensive specialist in 2016.
Riley Kabance got a taste of the varsity level as a sophomore right-side hitter, but the junior will see her role increase this season.
“All of them are back, so we really do have a great core nucleus to start with this year,” Allmoslecher said.
The Lady Tigers will also look for sophomore Alexa Boyle to be a difference-maker at outside hitter this season. Towards the end of her freshman year, Boyd played a significant role for the varsity team.
New to the varsity mix is junior setter Gracie Fagg, who played the position at the junior varsity level in 2016 while making a few varsity appearances last year as a sophomore.
“She has a high volleyball IQ, very calm and just runs a great offense,” Allmoslecher said. ”We’re looking for big things from her.”
Allmoslecher is also expecting a breakout year for middle hitter Paige Schrader.
“She works hard and is very teachable,” he said.
The Lady Tigers will not only have several new players on the court this season, they’ll also be significantly shorter than they were a year ago.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Carthage will have to make some adjustments to fit the Lady Tigers’ strengths for the 2017 campaign.
“Our height has gone about from an average of 5-foot-9 to probably a 5-foot-6 average this year,” Allmoslecher said. “We’re going to have to really rely on our ball control and defense. We’re going to try to run a quicker offense. That’s our goal.”