By Chris Parker
Rolla volleyball has won at least 21 matches each of the last two years. Gone from last year’s squad that finished team that finished 21-13-1 is a group of five graduated seniors including four all-conference selections.
The Lady Bulldogs will also have a new head coach who is new to Rolla but a coaching legend in southwest Missouri. Longtime Rogersville coach Tammy Miller is taking the reins of Rolla volleyball program this year.
“I loved my time at LR and as a coach you want to always set high goals and I felt it was the perfect time and opportunity for new challenges,” Miller said. “Rolla gave me a great location for my family and an opportunity to work with a phenomenal school district, teachers, admin and team. I am looking forward to this next set of opportunities and challenges.”
Miller won’t bring wholesale changes to Rolla, as there is already a good base to work with in Rolla.
“Over the last decade Rolla has had some amazing coaches and teams. I want to expand on thing things already established,” Miller said. “The kids at Rolla already have a great work ethic, they are there when the doors open and they work hard. We are trying to work on attention to detail and put our hard work to use in ‘small spaces’. They have the ability to have a great team in the near future and I am excited to be a part of the coming success.”
Sophomore Jessica Pritchett is the lone returning starter from last year’s squad. She accounted for 273 assists as a freshman. Seniors Emily Swizdor (middle/right side) and Madison Brown (outside hitter/right side) each saw time in at least 65 of 80 sets last season. Junior Alexis Gillman (outside/right side hitter) also has varsity experience.
Juniors Isa Lewis (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Gretchen Woodward (defensive specialist/libero), Jamison Hesse (setter/defensive specialist), Allie Stevens (outside hitter/middle hitter) and BreAnn Cunningham (middle hitter/outside hitter) are all fighting for varsity spots after playing junior varsity last year. Sophomore Campbell Smith (middle hitter/outside hitter) is also in the mix for a varsity spot.
Senior defensive specialist Camryn Faulkenhein returns from a knee injury that kept her from playing last year.
Freshman Haley Smith (outside hitter/setter) will also compete for a varsity spot.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of difficulty for Miller trying to take over the Rolla program.
“The consistency of play, the consistency of practice, school and life has all had its challenges,” Miller said. “Kids and adults alike love consistency, and I worry this year will be that of chaos and weirdness, but that has been the last several months. We have to be flexible and proactive in keeping all healthy.”
Rolla opens the season on Sept. 1 at home against Central.
“(I expect them to) work hard and understand how hard it is to be good, improve our skills, learn to compete at a higher level and by the time-post season comes around to be competitive to challenge those better that us,” Miller said.