By Chris Parker
Marionville volleyball will enter the reborn Southwest Conference this season with a young team featuring no seniors. The Lady Comets are looking to bounce back from a nine-win season a year ago in coach Taylor Aurentz’s second season.
Tori LaSalle was the lone all-conference selection for Marionville last year as the Lady Comets’ setter.
“Tori’s graduation leaves us missing her experience and volleyball knowledge, as we have no seniors this year,” Aurentz said.
Sophomore Alyssa White will be taking over the duties as a setter after serving as a libero last year. She finished with 148 digs in 41 sets played last year.
Juniors Kaylee Nevlen and Morgan Barrickman will be strong returning players for Marionville. Nevlen will be a huge presence in the front row and defensively. Barrickman returns after tearing her MCL and ACL last season in a game against Hollister.
Underclassmen will make Marionville go this year with a strong group of sophomores and freshmen. Isabella Stephens and Erin Blevins join White to comprise the sophomore class for the Lady Comets. Both Stephens and Blevis will be hitters.
The freshmen class is six deep with Emma Barrickman (hitter), Shelby Webb (hitter), Chelsey Hupp (defensive specialist), Madison Essary (hitter), Lanie Williams (defensive specialist) and Hunter Forrester (hitter).
The younger Barrickman is poised for a strong freshman campaign.
“(She) is all power,” Aurentz said. “She is looking to change the season with incredible defense and a very difficult to pass serve.”
Marionville will contend with several new schools after leaving the Mid-Lakes for the new Southwest Conference this season.
“We are incredibly excited to be a part of rebuilding the Southwest Conference,” Aurentz said. “We know that Ash Grove, Sarcoxie and Miller will be the biggest challenge going into this year. We have a young team with a lot of heart and endurance and are very excited to meet that challenge.”
Aurentz expects a few growing pains for her young team early, but an overall strong season to serve as a building block.
“Overall our expectations for this year is to have a winning season, coming out of a rough year last year,” Aurentz said. “With all underclassmen led by two powerful juniors, there will be a big learning curve, but we plan to have that done in the summer so we are ready to win. We plan to take districts one game at a time and push further than last year’s second round.”