By Chris Parker
Cassville volleyball was a young team last year that had no seniors playing in the regular rotation. This year Cassville returns a lot of experience looking to improve on last year’s five-win season.
“I think last season was really about learning how to play as a team and gaining some experience,” Cassville head coach Briana Kleine said. “I had a lot of fresh faces on the court last season, and those kids grew so much from August to October in terms of ability and game IQ. They learned how to trust the player next to them, and I expect them to carry that cohesion into this season.”
Three Lady Cats earned all-conference honors last year in Sharayah Seymour (first-team), Landry Parnell (second-team) and Olivia Holman (honorable mention).
Seymour brings a strong versatility to the team after posting 178 kills, 215 digs and 252 serve-receives last year. She will be an outside hitter and setter.
“Sharayah Seymour brings versatility on offense and defense,” Kleine said. “She is our go-to hitter, and that’s not a secret. She is also a great defensive and serve-receive option, so she really fits in well to any position in our lineup. Essentially, she can do whatever our team needs in that moment.”
Parnell tore her ACL in the spring, but she is still active with the team helping from the sidelines.
“Landry unfortunately tore her ACL in the spring, which has really changed the direction we were going in terms of a line-up” Kleine said. “She is working so hard in physical therapy to get back to the game, and she is still such a huge part of our team. She’s another set of eyes, and she has great feedback for our defense in games and in practices.”
Holman will also see time both hitting and setting. She led Cassville in assists with 183 while finishing second in kills with 61.
“Olivia was a staple for our team last year because of her leadership and consistency” Kleine said. “She sets for us and also takes on the role of another go-to hitter. Landry was crucial to our defense and serve receive as libero last season. She is such a smart player. She really understands the game, and she brought an in-game intensity that we absolutely needed.”
Seniors Hallie Hackler, Sadie Reuter, Chantly Yarnall, Hannah Hackler and junior Avery Crain also return for the Lady Cats.
“I really expect all of our returners to come back and make an impact in the game this year,” Kleine said. “They’ve all gained another year of experience, and they seem so ready to get back to the gym after all the chaos we’ve all experienced this year.”
Hallie Hackler and Reuter will be key players in the middle.
“Their primary job this season will be blocking, which is something that they have been working on since the beginning of last season. They slow the ball down really well for us,” Kleine said.
Crain will see time both setting and as a defender. She was the second setter in Cassville’s 6-2 offense last year. She posted 104 assists, which was second on the team.
“Last season, we ran a 6-2 with her (Crain), and she really did a great job,” Kleine said. “She is a natural defender, though. She brings energy to the court, and she is always communicating with her offense. She would run herself through a wall to get a ball, which makes her a necessity to have on the floor.”
Seniors Makayla Harvey and Dazee Williams will see expanded roles on varsity in just their second seasons playing high school volleyball.
“The two of them (Harvey and Williams) are incredible because they actually spent their first two years in high school playing softball,” Kleine said. “Last season, they switched over to volleyball, and they had quite a bit of work to do to catch back up, but they both worked so incredibly hard, and we are so proud of where they are. We feel so blessed to have them in our program.”
Senior Haylie Rickard and junior Riley Morris are two other athletes to watch for Cassville.
This off-season, Kleine and her team have remained thankful for any and all time they get on the court as they try to prepare for a season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID has proven to be a challenge that none of us coaches in any sport were expecting. At this point, I just feel grateful that we are going to get a season. My heart goes out to all those spring sport athletes who didn’t get a season, particularly the seniors,” Kleine said. “In preparing my kids for this fall, we have taken the approach that we GET TO be on the floor. We take every opportunity we can to get better because you just never know when that opportunity will be taken away. It has certainly made us all more grateful for the time we get together on the court.”
Cassville opens the season on Aug. 29 at the Branson Tournament.
“My biggest goal for this season is simply for our kids to remain consistent,” Kleine said. “It’s something that we have been working on all summer. I want them to be steady every single game and to play to their potential rather than anyone else’s. This season will be an interesting one for my kids as I go on maternity leave at the very beginning of season, but I am leaving them in very capable hands with my assistant coaches. I just want them to be able to play their game no matter who they are playing against and who is coaching them on the sidelines.”