By Chris Parker
Brooke Villa takes over for area volleyball coaching legend Becky Justis as the head coach of the Galena volleyball program this year. Villa served as an assistant under Justis at Galena the past two seasons.
“It has been a true blessing and opportunity coaching under Becky Justis the past two years. She is a great mentor. She definitively taught me to set the bar high for both coaches and players and to never lower it,” Villa said.
Villa is looking to keep up the positive momentum the Lady Bears have made on the volleyball court the last four years.
“For the past four years, I have been working hard in supporting and helping change the culture of Galena Volleyball as an assistant coach. I am very happy with the progress we have made as a program, but I wanted to continue that growth to build a Lady Bear Tradition at Galena High School. I’m so passionate about our program and our players, and I knew I wanted to take the driver’s seat for our program to continue growing,” Villa said.
Lexi Miller returns to lead the Lady Bears on the court after earning First-Team All-SWCL honors as a sophomore last year. She was a versatile weapon leading Galena in kills (201), blocks (30) and digs (188) last year.
“Lexi is athletic and competitive. She has a fire to compete and make a difference. She doesn’t bail on the ball and sees the play multiple steps ahead. She puts the work in to make herself better and establishes the trust of her teammates. Her heart for the game and for others makes a strong impact on our program,” Villa said.
Miller will be a middle hitter this year and expected to take on a larger leadership role.
“Lexi is aware of the high expectations we have for her offensively and defensively this season. She is going to have to really take on that leadership role with skill and her voice. We need her to remain consistent and smart through every set this season,” Villa said.
Seniors Madison Jennings (libero), Katelyn Lebow (right side) and Nila Keltner (outside hitter) along with junior Jaelyn Cutbirth (setter) and Sierra Ledford (outside hitter) return to the varsity line-up as well. Keltner led the team in assists last year with 217, but Cutbirth was just behind her with 183 assists of her own. Ledford will look to expand her impact on the offense after putting down 106 kills last year.
“We have most of our key varsity players returning this year. We need to continue the growth we have made and take it to another level. We have excellent team chemistry, and we don’t bail on the ball. This group of girls can hustle. We will be focusing on our defense and keeping the ball alive,” Willa said.”
Junior Hailey Eutsler will be a new name to watch in the varsity lineup at middle hitter.
Galena took eventual district champion Crane to three sets last year. Villa hopes her Lady Bears can build off that match and make if further this year.
“Coming off the district playoff game last fall, we fell in three to Crane. That game was a battle and our girls got a glimpse of what we were truly capable of. We need to improve on our ability to fight and finish strong. We have the capabilities, but we must apply them throughout every match to fight to win. We are going to focus on growing as a team to battle and finish strong on those close matches,” Villa said.
Galena will host at jamboree on Aug. 27 with New Covenant, Niangua and RUSH. The Lady Bears open the season on Sept. 3 at home against Miller.