Monett, Mo (For OzarksSportsZone.com) -- For Monett Lady Cubs volleyball coach Crystal Shannon, her first year as head coach was a tough one.
While her charges competed well, they never could quite find their rhythm. With only three seniors and two returning starters from the previous season, Monett struggled to a 3-21 record that included just one win in Big 8 conference play. And while they did manage to grab the sixth seed in their district, a 2-0 loss to East Newton in the opening round brought their season to a close.
But with a new year comes reasons to be optimistic. Coach Shannon points to the offseason work of her players as one of those. “We have had more girls play club this year, and it has provided us with stronger and more diverse players.”
A second reason is the return of four of her starting players from last season. Leading the way is Big 8 All-Conference Honorable Mention middle hitter Claudia Chadwick. Chadwick led the team in kills last season as a junior and should take the lead on the Monett attack this season.
Also returning to the starting lineup is senior Elizabeth Arnold, an outside hitter who gives Shannon a good front line when combined with Chadwick and junior Maddy Glouse, who shows the diversity Shannon is looking forward to by being able to play either outside or middle hitter. The last returning starter is senior defensive specialist Faith Schmidt who anchors Monett’s back line.
The Lady Cubs also have a pair of returning lettermen who Shannon and assistant coach Magan McPheeters are expecting big things from. Junior Brooke McLean is an athletic player who can play right side or outside hitter, and junior middle hitter Kiley Franke who put the icing on a strong summer for herself by being named to the All-Star team at the Pittsburg State team camp.
Offsetting the optimism are some reasons for concern. First, Shannon will have to find a new setter to feed her front line. That will be a big key to the team’s success. Second is the team’s schedule. Once again the Lady Cubs will face tough Big 8 competition from the likes of Carl Junction and East Newton. But Monett’s schedule also includes bigger schools such as Carthage, McDonald County, and Springfield Central. Throw in Reeds Spring and two tough tournaments and Monett again has their hands full.
Shannon is taking a one step at a time approach to the competition. “We are hoping to beat the well-matched teams we play this year, that were close losses last year.” As for the year as a whole, Shannon said: “We are looking to be stronger this season with more consistency and fewer losses. Improvements in defense and offensive options will give us more depth.”
With more experience and maturity, Monett should be an improved squad this year. That will translate to more wins. How many more remains to be seen.
Dorial Green-Beckham is now an Oklahoma Sooner.
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