By Chris Parker
Rolla finished with a 19-13-3 record overall and 4-5 in the Ozark Conference last season in coach Stephanie Pritchett’s return to the sidelines for Rolla. She previously was the coach for seven years at Rolla.
The Lady Bulldogs lost an eight-player senior class, but return most of their key pieces from last year’s team that lost 2-1 (25-16, 21-25, 25-23) to Lebanon in the Class 4, District 10 semifinals.
Key among those returners is senior Shelby Ply. Ply, a middle hitter, was a first-team all-conference selection after leading Rolla in kills (209), aces (43) and blocks (21).
“She will play a major leadership role this year and is slated to play six rotations,” Pritchett said. “I feel she continues to improve in all aspects of her game and she will not only continue where she left off, but should excel beyond last season.”
Second-team all-conference hitter Megan Brown also returns after putting down 170 kills.
“She (Brown) plays in the offseason as well and is looking to make an even bigger stride this year in her abilities. Her strength has improved and her variety of shots. That will make her more dangerous as a go-to,” Pritchett said.
Middle hitter Rebecca Janke is back for her junior season after 161-kill season. Janke led the Lady Bulldogs in hitting percentage at .352. She garnered all-conference honorable mention honors for her efforts.
“Her versatility has improved. If people didn’t pay attention to her last year, they will this season,” Pritchett said. “Her swing is high and hard. She is intelligent and has achieved a court sense that is valuable. Her defense has also improved and it won’t be a stretch for her to be a six-rotation athlete as well.”
Loran Pritchett, who was an all-conference second-team selection last year, will be a versatile piece for the Lady Bulldogs. She will hit from the outside and is a strong blocker for Rolla, but will also split time setting with senior Sophie Parsons. Like Pritchett, Parsons will be a threat on the attack as well in her senior season. Pritchett led the team in assists as a sophomore with 332. Parsons was just behind her with 278 assists.
Rolla will be a tough team to game plan for this season with so many strong options on the attack.
“We should definitely bring a lot of balance in our attack this season,” Coach Pritchett said. “We should bring three attacking options to the table on every play. With the athleticism we have, we should be able to run a variety of plays as well. All of that will depend on our passing and defense.”
The graduation of eight seniors has Pritchett looking for new faces to step up and fill the depth. Sophie Moreland will step into a major defensive role in her junior season as a libero or defensive specialist. Senior Sydney Hulbert and junior Maddie Lucas will both factor in as defensive specialists as well. Kayla Copeland will vie for time as an outside/right side hitter in her senior season.
The return of five starters that garnered all-conference honors last year have the expectations in the Rolla volleyball program high.
“We improved throughout the season last year and will hit the ground running after an active summer and will meet Central the first game of the season as a new OC (Ozark Conference) competitor. Nothing like starting the season with a conference match,” Pritchett said. “As long as our passing and defense are solid we should be able to go as far as we want. Everyone says- We want to win district, etc. We want to grow from game one to the end of our season and I feel like we could go further than Rolla high school volleyball has ever gone. We do not have an easy schedule and will have test after test every night.”