By Chris Parker
El Dorado Springs is coming off of a 12-18-3 season. The Lady Bulldogs will be a part of a conference for the first time in decades as they join the Ozark Mountain Conference with Buffalo, Warsaw, Sherwood and Butler.
Fifth-year head coach Ashley Rogers must replace a strong senior class that included Kayla Collins and Tiffany Nikodim who were the top two on the team in kills along with Kelsey Thomas who led the team in assists.
Tori Rawlings returns for her senior season to lead El Dorado Springs at libero. The four-year starter led the Lady Bulldogs in digs with 216 and in serve-receives with 515. Her nine serve-receives per set were three times as many as any other player on the team last year.
“She (Rawlings) has been our best defensive player as well. She is very scrappy and competitive. She will do whatever it takes to make sure the ball doesn’t hit the floor,” Rogers said. “I expect a lot out of her. She is very vocal and is a great leader.”
Fellow senior Taylor Robinson also enters her fourth year as a starter. She was third on the team with 84 kills last year and will be a six-rotation player for El Dorado Springs this season.
Senior Brittany Stevens returns to the varsity lineup and will also be a six-rotation player. Kraysen Leonard is also back as a left side and right side hitter.
Freshman Tevi Gurley will have an immediate impact for El Dorado Springs both setting and hitting.
“Even though she’s a freshman, she has played a ton of volleyball and has the desire to get better each day,” Rogers said. “She places the ball well, whether it be her jump serve or her massive swings at the net. She’s a great leader for such a young player.”
Classmate Reese Schaaf will also produce immediately on the varsity level.
“(She is) one of the most athletic kids I have ever coached. She will set and hit right side and middle and play all six positions. She is very court smart and is able to make huge plays. She puts up a gigantic block,” Rogers said.
Tristyn Marshall (defensive specialist), Brooke Ehlers (left side hitter) and Dani Ogle (left side and middle hitter) will also be key players for the varsity squad.
“I have very high expectations for my girls,” Rogers said. “We are bringing back a ton of talent and adding so much athletic ability to our team this year. Our potential is huge and I expect to be a tough contender in the postseason. Most importantly, we have the heart and desire to compete.”
El Dorado Springs opens the season on Aug. 30 at home against Osceola.