By Chris Parker
Joplin volleyball will look to get back above .500 after finishing 13-14-2 last year. The Eagles have a strong group of experienced upperclassmen leading the way.
Senior Addison Saunders will be a three-year starter and play setter/right side.
“This will be the first year moving to setter, but has played setter on her club teams. She is a leader on and off the court,” Joplin head coach Staci Saunders said.
Classmate Aubrey Ritter also returns as a three-year starter at outside hitter. She led the team with 141 kills last season.
“She brings lots of experience and confidence to our team. She led our team in kills last year and also does a great job on serve receive and defense,” Saunders said.
Juniors Kacy Cross (middle hitter), Angelina Schramm (middle/right side hitter) and Allie Lawrence (outside hitter) all return after playing in at least 44 of the team’s 63 sets last year.
Kaylie Anderson (libero), Baileigh Riley (setter), Mya Johnson (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Shahla Kellhofer (defensive specialist) and Emma Floyd (middle hitter/blocker) will all look to have an impact on varsity. Anderson sat out last year with a torn ACL. Riley was the junior varsity setter for the past two seasons. Johnson returns after sitting out last season. Floyd is a transfer from Rolla.
This experienced group will have to adjust to something new this year with Missouri moving from a best-of-three format to best-of-five for matches this year.
“It is time,” Saunders said. “It is going to be an adjustment. We have played Kansas and Arkansas schools that already do it and it just as much a mental toughness as a physical one. Before you win two games and you are done, now you have to push to win three. But we are excited for the change and ready to start putting in work.”
This team is poised for a strong season after playing in many close contests last year.
“I think we are going to surprise some people,” Saunders said. “We lost 10 games last year by two points. We competed, but did not get the job done in the COC. I expect us to do better in the COC and would love to be competing for a district championship. We have a very selfless group of girls who love to play volleyball. They are willing to work hard and work together as a team. If we can continue that team chemistry, I believe we will have a successful season.”
Joplin opens the season on Sept. 1 at Rogers-Heritage (Ark.).