By Chris Parker
The first year of the Taylor Pierce era at Blue Eye was a rousing success. Her Lady Bulldogs won 19 games and made it to the Class 1 District 7 Championship game before falling to School of the Ozarks. It was the first time Blue Eye secured double-digit wins since 2012.
They should be just as strong if not stronger this season led by three returning all-conference players.
Senior setter Taylor Arnold will make things go after earning a first-team all-conference selection in the SWCL last season. She accounted for 337 assists and 92 digs last season.
“Taylor Arnold is a great leader on the court. She is vital in our attack as our setter as she is the one who controls a high percentage of what happens on the court,” Pierce said. “She is constantly communicating with her teammates about where the open spots are on our opponents side, then executes a great set with the exact tempo our hitters need. I expect Taylor to simply play her game this season. She leads through demonstration, hustles for every play, is a student of the game, adjusts well, strong setter, server, and defensive player, and has fun playing the game.”
Kohnnar Patton, who is one of the area’s top basketball players, is also a star on the volleyball court with her hitting. She earned honorable mention all-conference honors last season after putting down 174 kills with 11 solo blocks.
“Kohnnar is a phenomenal athlete and kid. She is hardworking, disciplined, and isn’t afraid to take risks,” Pierce said. “I believe that is what makes her successful in both sports. She has a great hitter/setter connection with our setter, Taylor Arnold, which makes it easy for her to go in and get those kills. She is our strongest outside hitter and I’m looking forward to this season and what she will bring to the competition. “
Trinity Young rounds out the returning all-conference selections after being name honorable mention all-conference for her efforts as a middle hitter last year. She had 121 kills and was a force at the net with 46 solo blocks.
“Trinity is my strongest middle hitter. Our other middle, Hope Smith, went out midseason last year with a knee and ankle injury and wasn’t released to come back until after season had ended, which forced Trinity to really step her game up,” Pierce said. “We moved up a JV player to take Hope’s position and really relied on Trinity to make up some ground or create that gap in point spread when she was in the front row. She has been at nearly all of our preseason workouts and has been getting stronger, as well as more consistent with her play each time she touches the ball.”
Arnold has twin sisters joining the team this year as freshmen. Avery will be a right side hitter and Riley will be a left back.
Hope Smith (senior middle hitter) is coming back from injuries suffered during both volleyball and basketball last year. Kenedi Larson (senior right side), Ayshia Bettlach (senior defensive specialist), Kenzie Hobbs (senior libero) and Maddie Box (junior defensive specialist) will also be keys on varsity for Blue Eye.
Pierce has big expectations for her experienced team this season.
“I would like for us to be champions both in the SWCL Conference as well as postseason in districts. We have some great teams that we play in the SWCL and we finished in the top two last year so I’m hoping we can go all the way this year,” Pierce said. “We also had an upset in the district championship last season, where we played a well deserving and great team, but we had so many unforced errors where we were not only playing our opponent, but we were wrestling amongst ourselves as well. We have been working really hard this preseason and will continue to do so, on how to finish and how to embrace those out of system plays. As well as playing with confidence from start to finish. Staying level headed and continuously giving your maximum effort is what we look for out on the court.”
Blue Eye opens the season on Aug. 28 at Cassville.