By Chris Parker
Carl Junction won a district championship last season by upsetting top-seeded Carthage. It was the second consecutive district title for the Lady Bulldogs.
They graduated six seniors from that team. All six played in at least 67 of 73 varsity sets last year. That group included all-state selection Grace Southern.
“We have a very young team that wants to continue the tradition of the program,” Carl Junction coach Cheryl Sharples said.
All-state junior Salma Lewis returns to lead the young Lady Bulldogs. Lewis led Carl Junction in digs (241) while finishing second in kills (241) and serve-receives (309).
“Salma is a very composed player,” Sharples said. “She will play six rotations and swing outside. We will look to her to be a primary passer and a go to hitter. We will also look to her for leadership.”
Sophomore Jessa Hylton had great success in her freshman season with 142 kills, which was good enough for third on the team.
“Jessa had a solid freshman season,” Sharples said. “We had two solid outsides that opened up things for her in the middle. We will move her outside and look to her to take a lot more swings this fall. She also had a great serve that wasn’t used last season, she will be given that opportunity this fall.”
Dani Wrensch is back for her senior season after a strong junior year where she had a team-high 38 aces to go with 222 digs and 220 serve-receives.
“Dani is a very consistent, calm player. She will be our libero and contribute six rotations,” Sharples said. “She led us in passing last year, and we will lean heavily on her again this year. She has a very effective serve. It has good movement and she hits zones well.”
Carl Junction lost 667 assists with the graduation of Breanna Maxwell. Replacement of that production will fall to freshman Logan Jones.
Jillian Kennedy (junior middle), Maggie Brown (sophomore middle), Abigale Wilson (sophomore right side), Olivia Vedix (sophomore defensive specialist) and Berea Sluder (junior defensive specialist) will all be varsity factors.
Carl Junction will be young, but expectations are not relaxing for the Lady Bulldogs.
“We always have the same expectation every year: a district championship,” Sharples said. “We are very young this season and will depend on some young kids to make a big impact.”
Carl Junction opens the season on Aug. 31 at Bentonville (Ark.).