By Chris Parker
Southwest is switching conferences this year and will go from being the biggest schools in the Ozark 7 to one of the smaller schools in the SWCL.
“In the SWCL, most of the teams will be bigger, so we will need to work harder and smarter. We have traditionally played Blue Eye, Crane and Galena every year, but it will be all new playing Sparta, Billings and Spokane every year,” Southwest head coach Steve Voyak said. “It will take some time to build rivalries, but we spent most of the summer playing against them, so the process has started.”
The Lady Trojans enter their new conference having to replace graduated Ozark 7 Player of the Year Myka Cook. Cook led the team in kills (247) and blocks (13) and was third on the team in digs (220).
Her graduation leaves a big hole at the net for Southwest.
“She (Cook) was 5-foot-10, so she was also an imposing figure for the other team. Our tallest player now is 5-foot-6, so we aren’t going to scare anybody when we come into the gym,” Voyak said. “This is my smallest team in 16 years, so we have to jump higher, alter our sets some, be a little more creative offensively, but the team knows that and has worked all summer on overcoming being vertically challenged.”
There is a strong group of seniors to help in the transition that includes: Jacey Ball (outside hitter), Mariah Munday (outside hitter), Lacey Reeves (defensive specialist), Maggie Robbins (opposite or right side hitter) and Heather Windes (setter). All five are returning lettermen.
Two sophomore lettermen in Khloe Holder (outside hitter) and Bonnie Robbins (middle hitter) also return. They are joined by classmates Karma Romine (outside hitter) and Brylee Wilson (outside hitter). Freshmen middle hitter Olivia Ayer is also expected to make a varsity impact.
Munday and Bonnie Robbins have the inside track to being the primary hitters heading into the season. Munday had 75 kills last season with Robbins just behind her at 74 kills.
“Mariah jumps the highest and hits the ball the hardest and is trying to add different swings to her game,” Voyak said. “Bonnie is undersized in the middle, but has really worked on blocking girls four to eight inches taller than her. Her offensive and serving has also improved dramatically and I expect her to take a significant step forward this fall. She really stepped up as a freshman, and she is so much more calm and relaxed as a sophomore.”
All of the hitters will have to contribute for Southwest to be successful this season.
Windes enters her third season as a varsity setter after leading the team in assists (238) along with serve percentage, passes out of serve-receive and digs (309) last year.
Strong defense and serving will be a point of emphasis for the Lady Trojans this year.
“Seniors Jacey Ball and Lacey Reeves had good summers as defensive specialists. Both are sharing the some of the serve-receive duties and both have served at over 90-percent in 20 summer games,” Voyak said. “They need to continue to work on their positioning based on the hitter and situation, but being seniors they know their roles and take the team-first approach.”
Southwest opens the season on Aug. 25 at the Verona Invitational.