By Chris Parker
El Dorado Springs had a wildly successful 2018 season that included conference and district championships and 28 wins overall. The conference championship was especially sweet because it was the inaugural year of the Ozark Mountain Conference, which was also the first year El Dorado Springs was a part of a conference after years as an independent.
“It (playing in a conference) made a huge difference. Being an El Do graduate and finally joining a conference was awesome. I never experienced it as a player but to be a part of it now and to watch my girls dominate it the first year, was amazing We did have to change a few things on our schedule but we still competed at a high level,” El Dorado Springs head coach Ashley Rogers said.
The Lady Bulldogs had five all-conference selections. Three graduated, but the other two in Tevi Gurley and Reese Schaaf were first-team all-conference players in their freshmen seasons. Gurley led the team in kills with 202 while Schaaf was just behind her at 199. They also were one-two in both assists and aces.
“Tevi and Reese are two of the most athletic girls I’ve ever coached. They just click. They understand each other very well and are extremely competitive. They have experience playing at a very high level and are very mentally tough,” Rogers said. “They are true leaders. They compete at everything they do and are very successful on and off the court. This summer I have seen them come together and continue to lead our team.”
Seniors Kenley Widener (outside hitter) and Taylor York (defensive specialist) along with juniors Brooke Ehlers (outside hitter) and Tristyn Mitchell (libero) and sophomore Dani Ogle (middle hitter) all return with varsity experience. Ogle joined her classmates Gurley and Schaaf in the starting lineup last year. Marshall was a letterwinner. Widener played softball in her junior season, but started and lettered as a freshman and sophomore.
Junior Hanna Winburn (outside hitter/middle hitter) along with freshman Taylie McKlinic (outside hitter) are two new varsity players to watch.
The deep pool of returning talent has El Dorado Springs setting big goals this season.
“I have very high expectations for my girls this year. We did lose some experience last year with my four seniors. They had a lot of time on the floor and have very big shoes to fill. We finished one game shy of the Final Four last year. We return a lot of talent and I expect us to be strong contenders this year,” Rogers said.
El Dorado Springs will host a jamboree on Aug. 27 before opening the regular season on Sept. 5 at Osceola.