By Chris Parker
Cassville volleyball must replace a strong, four-player senior class this season that included the team’s leaders in kills, aces, digs and serve-receives last season.
“My class of 2019 offered a lot of versatility and well-honed skill. I had four wonderful seniors that came to me already developed. I didn’t have to back track and re-teach them fundamentals, and that really allowed us to be able to focus on game mechanics and strategy,” Cassville coach Briana Kleine said. “The biggest thing we lose with that graduating class is a solid defense and serve receive lineup. Avery Brown was a wonderful libero and Chloe Roller was a great defensive specialist. They really kept our defense and serve-receive going, and that will be a huge adjustment for us this season. Not only that, Bri Hemphill and Morgan Popanz were really great blockers for us. All four of my seniors were starting contributors to our game, and we will be looking to fill those four spots that they left behind. Great defense and blocking; that was their legacy. I am hoping to rebuild that, but ultimately, it will take time and hard work from every member of our program.”
Sophomore Sharayah Seymour will be a foundational player for Cassville this year. Last year as a freshman, Seymour led the team in assists (194) and blocks (39) while finishing second on the team in kills (141). She played middle and setter last season out of necessity but will see mostly time as a six-rotation outside hitter this year.
“Sharayah Seymour is an amazing all-around athlete. She’s one of those players that you can put into any position, and she will give you her very best,” Kleine said. “She’s so aggressive on offense, which makes her an asset to our lineup. Not only that, she has one of the most aggressive and effective serves that I have seen out of a young athlete. Her aggression and her willingness to work really make her that versatile tool that we have to have. We are fully expecting Sharayah to build on last season’s success but also to really come into her own as a leader. You have to remind yourself that she’s only a sophomore, but you can see those leadership qualities coming out even this early.”
Olivia Holman returns for her junior season. Last year she saw most of her time as a right side hitter, but will see an expanded role as a setter after a strong off-season.
“Liv got a lot of varsity time last season as a right side, but she wasn’t quite ready to set for us yet. She spent the off-season playing club, taking lessons, and conditioning herself to get ready for this role,” Kleine said. “Liv is a really hard worker, and she’s such a positive player. We fully expect her to have a huge impact for us this season.”
Classmate Chantly Yarnall was a defensive specialist last year but will be a six-rotation outside hitter this season.
“She (Yarnall) has also spent the off-season playing club and working really hard in the weight room. She’s one of those players that may not be the loudest on the court, but she will keep her head down and work, work, work,” Kleine said.
Junior Hallie Hackler and sophomore Landry Parnell will be full-time varsity players for the first time this season after seeing some time last year. Hackler is a middle hitter while Parnell will be a right side or defensive player.
Seniors Jill Hang and Nefertiti Gautney-Lopez will be two new faces to the varsity lineup with both being defensive specialists. Juniors Sadie Reuter (middle) and Hannah Hackler (defensive specialist) will also see varsity time.
Sophomore Avery Crain will be a key piece for Cassville’s rotation as a second setter and libero.
“Avery has a spark that you want and need to have on the court,” Kleine said. “She’s our hustler which makes her a perfect candidate for a libero and a setter. This season, we need her to set, but she is another one of those players that can fill whatever role is needed. We are really looking forward to watching her develop not only this season but in the upcoming seasons.”
Kleine will again challenge her girls with a tough schedule in hopes of being prepared for postseason play.
“The last two seasons, we have been making the transition to a tougher schedule in hopes of changing our program and its goals. We no longer play games just to pick up wins. We play a much harder schedule than in past seasons, and that means we don’t always come out on top. However, when we schedule those matches, we are looking for growth. How did we compete this season in comparison with two seasons ago? Are my athletes making progress? Are they adjusting to a faster game speed typically found in the COC? If you look at some of the most competitive smaller programs such as Strafford, Fair Grove, and Rogersville, what do you notice about their schedule? Do you think they got to where they are now by scheduling games they were guaranteed to win every time? Absolutely not. They scheduled the matches that would change them as athletes, and they began working towards progress. That’s where we want to take our program, and that’s what we consider success at this point,” Kleine said.
The season will be challenging for the Lady Wildcats, but that is by design according to Kleine.
“I think the recurring theme for this season is hard work,” Kleine said. “We really expect a lot out of them in terms of work ethic and attitude. Our workouts are long and hard. Our league nights and play days are exhausting. Our season stretches to the end of October this year, which will be hard on them physically. All of this will be challenging, but so is life. We’re trying to not only prepare girls for this season, but beyond that. We want them to know that no matter what they’re doing or what stage of life they’re in, they must always work hard. You cannot succeed without putting in the time, effort, and right attitude.”
Cassville opens the season on Sept. 3 against Blue Eye. Blue Eye was a district champion in Class 1 last season.