By Chris Parker
Ash Grove volleyball posted a 27-win season last year behind a strong four-player senior group that included two all-conference selections.
Those seniors will be missed, but their legacy will continue to affect the 2019 version of Ash Grove volleyball.
“The Class of 2019 really wanted to emphasize that the team included everyone. That we weren’t varsity versus junior varsity or upperclassmen versus underclassmen. They wanted a unified front where each team member was not simply working to improve for themselves but for the team as a unit. Which Coach Lina Langley and I believe was a strong key in their success last season and is something that will continue and grow in Ash Grove Volleyball,” Ash Grove head coach Diana Dreier said.
Sophomore Khloe Moad is the lone returning all-conference player for Ash Grove. Moad earned second-team all-conference honors after leading the team with 71 blocks. She was also third in kills with 96.
“Khloe pushed herself every day in practice and in the games. She would make goals for herself and act on them to improve her skills,” Dreier said. “What we are noticing of Khloe currently is that she is becoming more vocal on and off the floor in asking questions and encouraging her teammates in all aspects.”
Senior Kate Hodges returns after seeing time as a libero and defensive specialist on both varsity and junior varsity. Hodges led the team in aces (35) and digs (141) while also being Ash Grove’s best player in serve-receive.
“Kate communicates well with her teammates about what’s going well and what needs to be improved. We have also given Kate leadership roles to adjust various aspects of our defense throughout a match and discuss any options or concerns she has with us, her coaches. She sets high standards for herself and strives for them every chance she can get,” Dreier said.
Junior Olivia Steimel will be a threat on the front row at middle hitter and blocker with potential to see time on the right side. She was second in blocks with 40 last year to go with 89 kills.
Briley Bagley will be a versatile player for Ash Grove after she finished second on the team in both assists (300) and kills (122).
Senior Emily Martin is also returning as a defensive specialist. Last season she accounted for 91 digs and served at a 93% clip.
Seniors Riley Hammons and Taylor Spickard will step up the varsity level this season. Emma Eagleburger will return to the varsity lineup after missing much of last season due to an injury. Two others players that are looking to assist on varsity are junior Mackenzie Lutz and sophomore Julianna Torbett.
“For this season to be considered a success for our Volley Pirates, Coach Langley and I are looking for growth in each player not only in the sport but in life skills while enjoying themselves. Everyone is always out for the win, and don’t get me wrong we will be too, but any extra or co-curricular activity is about more than just the win or loss. There is always something to learn and take away from every experience we have,” Dreier said.
Ash Grove volleyball will work to replicate last season’s success with a new group of players this season.
“Expectations for Ash Grove Volleyball this season are high coming off last season. What we have to do as a team, coaches and athletes, is to remember that it is a new season for us. With that, we have to reset and understand that our teams will be different with student athlete leadership changing and that even our teams as a whole is changing,” Dreier said.
Ash Grove opens the season on Sept. 3 at home against Stockton.