By Chris Parker
Nevada found immediate success in the Big 8 last season by winning the inaugural Big 8 West Division title. The Lady Tigers fell to Rogersville in the Big 8 Championship and finished the season with an overall record of 25-8.
“Because we only see each team on our side of the conference once, we learned quickly that every match is important and we have to be ready to play from the beginning,” head coach Ashley Thoreson said.
Thoreson and the Lady Tigers will be tasked with replacing a deep senior class of five players that included Big 8 West Player of the Year Sydney Ernsbarger.
“We graduated a very aggressive, offensive based group,” Thoreson said. “They were big hitters and ran our front row. They were competitive and very talented. We will miss a lot from that group. We ran a 5-1 with Hailey Jackson. She was scrappy and made smart choices with the ball. We will miss not having Sydney and Adrian (Bond) to not only put the ball down for us but also setting up a solid block for our defense to play around.”
Senior Stacy Pennington returns to lead the Lady Tigers this year after earning second-team all-conference honors as a junior thanks to putting down 188 total kills.
“We will be centering our offense around her. She has grown a lot the last couple seasons with her consistency and power and we will look to her to take a lot of our swings and to make big plays for us in every matches,” Thoreson said. “She will be a six-rotation player for us and I expect her to be our leader on the court. She plays with high intensity and can handle the pressure situations. She also has a very aggressive serve and I expect her to be a consistent server that will earn us a lot of points behind the line as well.”
Classmate Lani Coonrod also earned all-conference honors in 2019, as she landed on the All-Big 8 West Honorable Mention squad after leading Nevada in serve-receives (435), digs (297) and aces (40).
“Lani plays with no fear. She sacrifices her body to get the ball up and does a great job of reading the opposing hitters. She has control and is very comfortable in the back row. She also can take anything with her hands because she was a setter up until last season, so that makes her even more successful with her defense,” Thoreson said. “Lani will be our top defender and I look to her to be the leader in the back row. She has confidence and consistency and will be hard to get past in the back row.”
Lindley Ferry is the final returning all-conference player for the Lady Tigers in her senior year. Classmate Lindy Smith also returns and will set for Nevada. Laney Coons is a junior that will impact the varsity on the right side.
“Our chemistry and court awareness (will be strengths). We have seven seniors who have played together for many years. They are comfortable with each other and confident in each other’s skills,” Thoreson said. “We lost a lot of height and big hitters from last year’s team so we are going to have to learn to place the ball and find holes because we won’t have the options on offense like we did last year.”
Nevada graduated a strong senior class, but there is still a wealth of experience returning which has expectations remaining high.
“With the experience we have returning, I expect us to have another very successful season,” Thoreson said. “This group knows how to win and what it takes. We will just have a different approach in getting there.”
Nevada will travel to Carthage on Aug. 27 to face the host Lady Tigers, Aurora and Joplin. The Lady Tigers open the regular season on Sept. 5 at Mt. Vernon.