By Chris Parker
Fordland volleyball has a new head coach in Taylor Aurentz. Aurentz was the head coach at Marionville for the past two seasons.
She liked everything Fordland had to offer.
“The high school is known for its excellence and their athletics follow suit. The administration, community and families have really bought it and support their sports,” Aurentz said.
Gracie Trotter returns as a leader in her junior year. She led Fordland with 276 digs and 296 serve-receives last season.
“Gracie is naturally a leader. Despite her size, she’s not afraid to be loud. On top of that she reads well and is quick to pick up any pass. She will be stepping up for us and playing middle back as well as using her big vertical to be an outside hitter for three rotations,” Aurentz said.
Kenzie Branson is the top returning hitter after she put down 111 kills last year while leading Fordland in blocks with 37.
“(Kenzie) is incredibly smart and powerful and that combination will allow her to continue to make those big kills. She will be a huge presence as an outside hitter and play around to the middle back. I’m excited to be a part of her senior year. She’ll be one to watch,” Aurentz said.
Senior Kayleena Lucas, junior Mahalia Burks and sophomore Lauren Hale also return for the Lady Eagles. Lucas is back after taking time off for medical reasons. She will be a right side hitter and defensive specialist. Burks will set and be a big presence in the middle with the ability to play anywhere on the court. Hale will also be in the middle and a setter.
Freshmen Mikah Suter, Aubrey Huskey and Grace Grandel all are candidates for varsity playing time. Suter will play right side while also seeing some time on the back row.
“These girls are eager for wins and love the game. I think teams will see our mental strength and ability to build each other up and enjoy every moment on the court to be our biggest strength. Their natural athleticism and willingness to be well rounded players won’t hurt either,” Aurentz said. “We are working hard to perfect our serve receive. Our offense is huge and we plan to dominate on the net. Getting our serve receive to the same level will keep us consistent.”
Fordland finished below .500 last year with a final record of 10-11-2. Aurentz wants her girls to get back above .500 this season.
“We expect to have a winning season and see that final round of districts. I told these girls, if they are enthusiastic and support one another, they can pull out any match with their skill level. I want to see them be consistent, be brave and make big moves. They will be building a long standing tradition for girls to look up to,” Aurentz said.
Fordland travels to Marionville on Tuesday, Aug. 27 for a jamboree with the host Lady Comets, East Newton and Sarcoxie. The Lady Eagles open the regular season on Aug. 30 at Hurley.