By Chris Parker
Branson volleyball welcomes in a new head coach in Kailey Bridges this season. Bridges was the head coach at Marshfield for the last four seasons. She was a student teacher at Branson during college, which is a big reason she was attracted to the job.
It will be a challenge coaching in the grueling Central Ozark Conference, but one she is ready to take on.
“This conference has a lot of amazingly talented coaches and athletes that are used to winning day in and day out, so just doing what we need to do to compete and be mentally tough (are the biggest challenges),” Bridges said.
Mental toughness has been a point of emphasis for Bridges to her new team this summer.
“During this summer, our program has been working hard each day to be more disciplined, more mentally tough, and have more confidence,” Bridges said. “I told them while at a league, ‘You guys just really have no idea how good you can be’. Once their confidence starts catching up to their skill and work ethic, they are going to be quite a force to deal with.”
Branson finished 20-11 last year and lost its only all-conference performer in Caroline Wescott. Wescott led the team in kills (189) and blocks (32).
The Lady Pirates do bring back a significant portion of their attack from last season with junior Jaden More and sophomore Morgan LeBlanc. Moore was second on the team with 118 kills last season and will be back at middle hitter this year, while LeBlanc had 103 kills in her first varsity season and will be an outside hitter.
Junior setter Grace Dean also returns to provide stability after leading Branson with 277 assists last season.
A quartet of juniors in Keaton Wilczynski (libero/defensive specialist), Annie Graber (middle hitter), Jordyn Schwartz (outside hitter/right side) and Kayli Nimmo (libero/defensive specialist) will also be key contributors to the team this year.
Branson opens the season on Aug. 25 with its home invitational tournament.