By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Defending district champ Willow Springs enters 2018 with a young roster and retooled lineup.
Second-year coach Megan James is eager to see what’s ahead after a productive offseason.
“This group of girls has worked hard this offseason to improve individually and as a team,” James said. “I look forward to seeing this team develop and improve throughout the season.”
The volleyball Bears return two starters from last season’s district championship squad.
Junior Kassidy Brotherton tallied 732 assists last season.
Fellow junior Tessa Duddridge had a team-high 175 digs. After two seasons at libero, Duddridge will shift to outside hitter this season. Willow Springs graduated its top four hitters.
“Kassidy gained valuable experience as a varsity setter last season. She’s a hard worker and will run our offense again this year,” James said. “Tessa’s a strong defensive player and we’re looking for her to contribute front-row attacks along with her impressive defense.”
A strong senior class led the Bears to their first district title in nearly 20 years last season. Willow Springs (21-11-5 overall) upended host Cabool in the district title match, before falling to Sarcoxie in sectionals.
The graduation of Liliya Dudko, Kameron Woody, Jessica Miller and Kaitlyn Perkins leaves a production void to fill. Each one registered 135 or more kills in 2017.
An array of JV players and varsity reserves from 2017’s squad will step into bigger roles this year.
Senior Shyanne Figley and juniors Emily Daniels, Kenzie Cox (OH/S) and Zoe Kimbrough will battle for playing time at outside hitter.
“Shyanne will be a blocker and hitter for us this season. She’ll provide a big block,” James said. “Emily played some varsity for us last year. She’s athletic and a strong attacker.”
“Kenzie’s stepping into a varsity role for the first time. She’s worked hard to improve in the offseason and will help our offense. She’s a great server. Zoe’s also stepping into a varsity role. She has a great arm swing and will help our offense.”
Junior Chyann Watts and sophomore Alyssa VonAllmen will contribute in middle-hitter roles.
“Chyann’s a varsity newcomer and a dominant middle who hits and blocks well. She’ll be a huge asset offensively and defensively,” James said. “Alyssa played a few varsity rotations last year but will have a bigger role this season. She’s very athletic and will be a big blocker and hitter for us on the front row.”
Also look for increased production from junior Shelby Weaver, who played occasionally on the varsity last year.
“Shelby’s an excellent passer,” James said. “Overall, this team will be strong defensively.”