By Chris Parker
Central is hoping a strong finish from last season will help translate into even more success this year. The Lady Bulldogs finished 16-15 overall, but pushed eventual state quarterfinalist Willard to a deciding third set in the Class 4 District 10 semifinals. Central would ultimately lose that match (25-22, 15-25, 21-25), but it was an encouraging step for coach Lisiane Matsdorff’s Lady Bulldogs.
“Last year was a big surprise. We had a great season. Our district tournament was incredible. Losing to Willard in the tiebreak (of the district semifinals) was pretty amazing,” Matsdorff said. “The kids are excited with this. They see that they can compete and they can improve.”
Central will be young this season, but junior Jayley Rice does return to help led the Lady Bulldogs. She had 531 assists to lead the team last season while also contributing 41 aces in the serving game and 94 digs.
“She is important with her experience,” Matsdorff said. “This is a girl that has played volleyball a long time. She played for me when she was 12 years old in club. I think that her experience in club volleyball helped a lot.”
Just two seniors will grace the Central roster in Mariah Oke-Thomas and Amanda Roppe. Oke-Thomas supplied 18 total blocks in 47 sets played last year.
“They are really athletic,” Matsdorff said. “They jump like crazy. They could be really aggressive with the block.”
Hitters Kennedy Maupin, Daryan Noel and Taylar McKay will be key to the offense. Junior Kayla Lick will also impact the varsity lineup.
A strong group of freshmen have also presented themselves in the offseason. The Lady Bulldogs won a summer tournament in Joplin with two juniors and the rest of the team being made up of underclassmen.
“I think that this team can build,” Matsdorff. “I have just two seniors, but I have bunch of underclassmen that have more experience in volleyball than other teams in than the past. What I want to accomplish is (have) this team build (a) strong (foundation) for the future.”
Central will open the season on Aug. 25 at the Branson Tournament.