By Chris Parker
Clever is poised for a big season after 21-9-4 district championship season in 2017.
The Lady Blue Jays lost one all-state player in Lindsay Peebles who led the team in assists with 302 last year.
Luckily for Clever, two all-state players do return in seniors Harper Little and Abi Menzies. Little was the SWCL Player of the Year last year after putting down 148 kills, securing 313 digs and leading the team in serve-receives at 247 with just 13 errors.
“Harper Little is an outstanding athlete whose versatility as a defender and offensive power make her a big key to our success,” associate head coach Mikki Teague. “Harper has the ability to jump out of the gym and is one of the hardest hitters in southwest Missouri.”
Menzies led the team in kills (175) and blocks (48) last year.
“Abi Menzies is the key to the Lady Jay’s this season,” Teague said. “The all-state senior will likely be moved to the outside hitter position and will be expected to bring her outside, middle and back row hitting skills every game.”
Junior Carly DeBriyn will step up as the main setter this year after tallying 160 assists last year playing behind Peebles. Senior Tessa Newman will command the team from the back row as the libero after securing 348 digs as a junior.
“She (Newman) will need to own the back row, be more vocal, and continue her excellent passing,” Teague said. “Tessa was named to the all-tournament team at summer camp for her passing skills.”
Senior middle hitter Ashten Graff, junior Anna Kate Riley and sophomore Brandi Riley will all push for varsity time this year. Freshmen Kenna Wise and Kylie Wenger have impressed in summer workouts and should work their way into the varsity rotation.
Clever will be in a new conference this year as the school moved from the SWCL to the Mid-Lakes Conference.
“(We) revamped our schedule to include all new conference foes last year. The Mid-Lakes brings good competition from some new teams,” Teauge said. “The Lady Jays hope to be close to the top of the new conference just as we did in the SWCL. We will play some bigger schools with great athletes. The change will strengthen the team.”
Clever will aim to push even deeper into the playoffs after falling to new Mid-Lakes foe Strafford in the Class 2 sectional round.
“Our expectations will be to push to be the best in the new conference. With this group of seniors, they have been close to the championships the last two seasons. Hopefully if all the cards fall in place and we continue to gel as a team, and we can shoot for the championships,” Teague said.