By Chris Parker
Purdy enters coach Ashley Brown’s fifth year as head coach having to replace a five-player senior class that included three all-conference selections.
“That was certainly a highly decorated group,” Brown said. “They were my first class to see all the way through high school so they definitely hold a special place in my heart. In my eyes they really paved the way to define a new era for Purdy Volleyball. They were asked to lead and contribute quite a bit along the way and my hope is their work ethic, intensity, and effort will be what stands to continue.”
The Lady Eagles will look to improve from last season’s seven-win season.
Junior Kylie Wood will see a bigger role after putting down 31 kills last season. She is the only returning player to have more than 13 kills last season.
“Her role will expand quite a bit. I’m excited for Kylie to come into her own and feel confident in the job she has shown me she can do,” Brown said. “We are still playing around with her on the outside and in the middle this summer and even though those are completely different positions she is doing a great job. We will ask her to contribute her serve receive and ball handling skills as well.”
The graduated Hallie Henderson accounted for all but eight assists last year, which means the Lady Eagles have a big hole to fill in their offensive attack.
Bayleigh Robbins and Kinsley Mattingly are two sophomores that are battling for the spot at lead setter. Freshman Dally Craig also is in the mix in the competition for the setter spot.
Madison Renkoski will be the libero this season after tallying 143 digs last season. Emma Harkey returns at middle blocker. Shadyn Minton, Penny Murray, Payton Crumpler, Areli Garcia and McKenzie Renkoski will also factor into the varsity lineup.
Purdy moves from the Ozark 7 Conference to the Southwest Central League this season.
“We are excited for the move, but we definitely feel like there will be an adjustment period. (There is a) different routes to travel, different level of volleyball,” Brown said. “Much of this league is in the direction of Springfield and it always seems the further you travel that direction, the higher the volleyball IQ. I feel grateful to be a part of this move and I know our kids are ready to elevate their play to compete in this league.”
Expectations remain the same for Purdy despite the conference switch.
“My expectations for this group are going to be no different moving into another conference. Honestly, it may sound cliché but I expect these kids to push themselves, to work hard every chance they have in the gym, and to play for each other,” Brown said. “I don’t make predictions, but I do have a high standard for the things we can control in our gym. I know when they meet those expectations good things are bound to happen.”
Purdy opens the season on Aug. 25 with the Verona Invitational.