Posted: Thursday, 15 August 2013 1:33PM

Willard volleyball counting on last year's JV to step up

Willard, Mo. (For  -- Willard Lady Tigers head  volleyball coach Jamalee Hancock is drawing on talent from last year’s junior varsity squad to build a solid varsity team. The Willard Lady Tigers lost five seniors, including standout four-year starter Tessa Thornton.

“Some parts of the team are stronger than last year, some we are working on. They are all very coachable,” said Hancock.

The Lady Tigers posted an impressive record of 27-6-2 in 2012, with a loss to Jefferson City in the Class 4, District 10 championship.

Returning starters include Paige Owings (sr.), middle hitter. Owings is known for her outside blocking.

Also returning is Jenna Robinson (sr.), whom Hancock describes as a good all-around player who keeps the ball in play. Makayla Sanford (sr.) returns as libero.

Hancock offered high praise for the Lady Tigers seniors.

“My seniors are awesome. They have a great work ethic and are top notch seniors,” said Hancock.

Returning starter Mariah Stewart (jr.), the only leftie on team, will be the Lady Tigers’ go-to hitter along with Owings. Stewart was recovering from foot surgery in the spring and summer and only recently was cleared to jump.

The remainder of the starting lineup comes primarily from last year’s junior varsity squad.

“Losing five seniors means a longer merging of JV and varsity than normal. They’ve adapted well. It is nice to get sophomores on varsity, because you know they’ll be playing longer,” said Hancock.

The tentative varsity lineup will include McKenzie Hunt (jr.) and Makenzie Bouse (so.) as setters, Kate Bushnell (so.), Madi Page (so.), Makenzie Parker (jr.), and Jasmine Berry (jr.).

Thornton, who graduated in 2013, signed with Middle Valley College after earning first team All-Central Ozark Conference, All-District, second-team All-Region, and honorable mention All-State honors.

Willard’s season opener will be August 30 at Lebanon.

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