By Chris Parker
Rogersville was one set away from beating eventual state champion Helias Catholic in the Class 3 quarterfinals last year before falling in three sets.
The Lady Wildcats lose all-state setter McKenna Miller and first-team all-conference defensive specialist/libero Ashley Pitts. That duo were three-year starters for the Lady Wildcats.
Rogersville will look to overcome the losses of those two players with a strong group of returners led by one of the state’s best players in junior Birdie Hendrickson.
“Birdie is a very gifted athlete, not just a volleyball player, but an athlete,” Rogersville head coach Tammy Miller said. “Birdie is more dominant at the net, she sees the floor well and puts herself in position to help us side out and score points. I am not sure exactly where she will play at this point, as she is an extremely gifted setter. We just need her potentially in other roles for our team to be successful. She is willing and excited to help our team in any aspect of the game.”
Last year, Hendrickson put down 308 kills with a .399 hitting percentage. She was second on the team in digs with 198 and aces with 20. She also received 297 serves with just seven errors.
Hendrickson may see more time as a setter this season largely because of the trio of Gabby Massengale, Allie Gipson and Maci McHenry. Massengale was second on the team in kills with 217 last year. She was followed closely by Gipson (165 kills) and McHenry (144 kills).
“They (Massengale, Gipson and McHenry) all can side out for our team and have increased their hitting options over the summer. They are versatile in playing different positions, and seem to be getting more comfortable in different hitting schemes,” Miller said. “All three of these girls have had success this summer and I am looking forward to watching them continue to grow. The part of their game I am most impressed with is their willingness to try new things along with working hard to get better.”
Massengale earned all-state honors last year while Gipson and McHenry were second-team all-conference honorees.
Honorable mention all-conference senior Sydney Dunavant was a defensive specialist and played right back last year. She will compete for time as the libero this year. Libby Kish played outside hitter and right side last year and returns for her junior season.
Replacing McKenna Miller’s 723 assists could fall to several players. In addition to Hendrickson, senior Claire Taylor will be another option. The Drury commit missed last season with an ACL injury. Sophomore Samantha Thompson could also see the court.
Senior Alyssa Jungers (defensive specialist) and juniors Jade Robb (defensive specialist), Nora Humble (defensive specialist), Eden Schweitzer (defensive specialist) along with sophomore McKinzie Thompson (outside hitter/defensive specialist) will also work to factor into the varsity equation.
Rogersville enters the Big 8 West this season with mostly former COC Small schools along with Big 8 stalwarts Aurora and Mt. Vernon.
“We added Aurora and Mt. Vernon, which are two teams we have rarely competed against in my 20 years. Over the last few years they both have been very competitive, so we look forward to new challenges,” Miller said.
Rogersville will be aiming for a trip back to the Final Four this season with simple goals in mind to get there.
“We want to put ourselves in position to be competitive and win matches,” Miller said. “Our goal is to never overlook any opponents, respect their programs and go and try and win as many matches as we can. To do those things we to increase our efficiency in passing and defense, improve our hitting schemes along with being mentally tough throughout the season.”