By Chris Parker
Brad Stewart begins his second decade as the head coach begins season No. 20 at the helm of the Verona volleyball program.
He welcomes back three all-conference players and the full starting lineup from last season’s team that finished 5-21-2.
Senior Rita Castillo leads that group after earning first-team all-conference honors last season. She led the team in kills, aces and digs.
“Rita has many great assets. She is a very strong, quick and agile athlete who excels in all aspects of the game,” Stewart said. “Rita reads plays really well and goes after every play 100%. She is a great communicator and one of the best leaders in the area. Rita has a great personality and is highly thought of and respected by opponents and coaches thru out the area. The neat thing about Rita is she is a really good player and an even better person.”
Juniors Carolina Castillo and Hailee Wilkinson also return after all-conference seasons. Castillo, who earned second-team honors, will serve as the team’s setter. Wilkinson, who earned honorable mention honors, is an explosive outside hitter for the Lady Wildcats.
Sophomores Paige Bauer and Sydney Gamroth were strong middle hitters as freshmen last year.
“Both have shown this summer they are ready to make great improvement moving into their second year at the varsity level,” Stewart said. “Both have improved athletically and skill wise and expect big things from both.”
Junior Ashley Freiburger will see time at outside hitter and as the second setter.
Kristen Krueger (junior setter), Shelby Freiburger (junior outside hitter) and Courtney Freiburger (sophomore outside hitter) are three more returning players that will see varsity time. Freshmen Yoselin Martinez (Setter), Alyssa Tosh (setter) and Grace Cullen (outside hitter) will start on junior varsity and provide depth on varsity.
“We expect to take this team to the next level,” Stewart said. “Last year we were learning how to play varsity volleyball, and now we expect to win more consistently. We always have represented our school in a positive manner, and combine working hard with having a lot of fun. The one thing I know for sure this group is great to be around on a daily basis.”
Verona opens the season on Aug. 25 with its home volleyball tournament.