By Chris Parker
Webb City volleyball improved from 11 wins in 2016 to 15 in 2017 then 20 in 2018 before breaking out with a 28-7 record and district title last season.
“Our team was the best example of how a team should work,” Webb City head coach Rhonda Lawrence said. “No one cared who got the credit, we had multiple options that were hard for others to shut down and step up when they struggled. One of my all-time favorite teams I’ve had because of that. They loved to compete and out there to find a way to win.”
The Cardinals graduated four seniors from last year’s squad including second-team all-conference selection Anna Swearengen. Swearengen led Webb City in kills with 237 last year.
Senior Maddy Peeples earned Class 4 all-state honors last year after putting down 207 kills to go with 37 aces, 171 digs and 228 serve-receives. All those marks were second on the team for Webb City.
“I was very proud of that, shows she’s worked hard to make an impact and our toughest opponents see that talent level she’s bringing every night. She’s a dynamic player that is a threat on offense and defense,” Lawrence said. “I know she wants to be a leader of this next group and leave an even bigger impact on our program as she already has. It’s not just about stats for Maddy, she wants to win and play that well for her team, being able to make that happen for them makes her even happier.”
Classmate Sage Crane also returns after earning honorable mention all-conference honors as a junior. She led the team with 255 digs and 337 serve-receives.
“Sage is captain of defense at all times. She gets more pressure to help the others and expectations are high for her to have an even better year. Defensively she understands she keeps them from scoring, giving the best ball so our other players can have the best opportunity to score,” Lawrence said. “I knew she had great control and she’s just continued to step up each year. She’s fought and is never satisfied which is key for a defensive player. Her consistency of platform is unmatched.”
Anna Hettinger will be expected to take on more of a leadership role. She led Webb City in assists with 296 last season. Abby Stork will pair with Crane on the back row for a stout defensive presence. Junior McKenzie Storm (middle) and sophomore Brenda Lawrence (outside hitter) will be two new key varsity contributors.
Webb City is preparing for another grueling run through the always tough COC and post-season with a twist. Missouri will switch from a best-of-three format to best-of-five.
“As much as it’s more playing time for the teams and that will translate to even higher quality of play, especially in our COC. There will have to be some extra care for injury prevention so that we don’t overuse/over train the starters,” Lawrence said. “I think it’ll bring more players getting in the game to make an impact so we’re able to maintain efficiency from our ‘go to’ players. In practice there will be some definite adjustments on how many swings and jumps everyone is taking per day, so they are in top form for game days.”
Webb City opens the season on Sept. 1 at Bentonville West.
“I think this year is an adjustment due to personnel but I’m excited as I see some of the young ones starting to really make their mark and building that trust like we had last year,” Lawrence said. “(I) definitely believe we will surprise some people yet again this year.”