By Chris Parker
Carl Junction will have some holes to fill after a 25-9 season in which the Lady Bulldogs won the Class 4 District 12 Championship before falling to Willard in the Class 4 sectional round of the state tournament.
The biggest holes left by the graduated eight-player senior class are of the all-state duo Lexi Miller and Sylvia Lawson. Miller led the team with 360 kills and was second with 235 digs last year. Lawson accounted for 647 assists with no other player garnering more than 80 for Carl Junction.
“Lexi is a very dynamic player. (We will) definitely had the ability to change the momentum in a match. She led us in kills, so we are looking to replace her offensive output,” third-year Carl Junction head coach Cheryl Sharples said. “Sylvia did a great job of getting our hitters one-on-one, she was also able to impact the game with her attack.”
Fortunately for Sharples, one all-state player in Grace Southern does return. The senior is coming off a 228-kill season for the Lady Bulldogs. She also led the team in digs with 335 and serve-receives with 216.
“She (Southern) has had a great off season for us. Her hitting consistency has increased. She has also improved her blocking,” Sharples said. “We will look to Grace to be a go-to player even more than last season. We need her to be a leader in all six rotations.”
Sophomore Salma Lewis saw action in all 79 sets Carl Junction played last year as a freshman. She was fourth on the team in kills with 110.
“Salma will be a six-rotation player for us this season,” Sharples said. “We will look to her a lot more to swing and also to pass and play defense. She has great instincts on the back row.”
Senior Breanna Maxwell will step into Lawson’s shoes as the primary setter after accounting for 80 assists in just 13 sets played last year. Fellow seniors Mackenzie Crow (right side) and Kayleigh Sewell (defensive specialist) will be key for the varsity team. Sophomores Jillian Kennedy (right side) and Berea Sluder (defensive specialist) along with freshman Jessa Hylton (middle/outside) will also factor into the varsity equation.
Expectations will remain high for Carl Junction as the Lady Bulldogs reload.
“We always want to be a contender for the district championship and finish as high as we can in the COC. It’s a tough conference so if we can finish in the top 4 we have had a good conference run,” Sharples said.
They are well on the way to accomplishing those goals thanks to a stronger continuity.
“I feel like our team continuity will be better this season. We have a better team atmosphere already than in the past couple of years,” Sharples said.
Carl Junction opens the season on Aug. 28 at Springdale Har-Ber.