By Chris Parker
Ash Grove volleyball posted a 19-12-2 record last season. The Pirates, who were seeded seventh, upset No. 2 Skyline in the first round of the district tournament before falling to No. 3 Adrian 2-1 in the semifinals.
This year, Ash Grove is poised to make a run at the program’s first district title since 2013 with a talented group of returning players.
Senior Briley Bagley will return to lead the team after she led the Pirates in kills (202) and assists (243) last year. She earned second-team all-conference honors for her efforts.
“Briley is a player that has a drive to learn all aspects of the game. This, along with her competitiveness, pushes her to being excited about taking on new challenges in various positions on the floor,” Ash Grove head coach Diana Dreier said.
Bagley will predominantly be a setter when she is on the back row. Up front, she will play wherever she best fits in the scheme.
Junior Khloe Moad and senior Olivia Steimel are also back after earning second-team and honorable mention all-conference honors, respectively. Steimel (183) and Moad (136) were second and third on the team in kills last year and were first and second on the team in blocks.
“They bring high energy to our floor. Both of these ladies have high expectations for themselves. This allows them to work hard every day we are together to become the best they can be,” Dreier said.
Ash Grove has a strong group of leaders ready to help lead the Pirates to a deep post-season run.
“Coach Lina Langley and I expect to see them continue to lead our team in both our wins and losses by being positive examples for our other athletes. This summer we were able to see three of these young ladies already show excellent leadership qualities. With COVID-19, all our athletes that attended the summer leagues we participated in had to be flexible in playing positions. The three, along with their fellow classmates, really took charge in assisting our young athletes that had to step-up into rolls on our upper team. They would help coach them on and off the floor. Then would take extra time in team huddles to encourage the underclassmen and ask if they had any additional questions that they may have been nervous asking one of us coaches,” Dreier said.
Dreier expects a host of other players to be prepared to contribute at the varsity level.
“Ash Grove Volleyball has many options not only in returning players but also our incoming freshmen. We expect that all our players will make a positive impact on our team no matter if they are playing Varsity, JV, or as a manager,” Dreier said. “Coach Lina Langley and I always tell the girls that we are going to treat them all as varsity players, even if they are primarily seeing play time on the JV floor. We believe that we need to maintain the same expectations for our JV squad as our varsity that way our athletes know what to expect if they ever need to make a quick jump to the varsity floor due to an injury or an illness.”
Ash Grove will open the season on Sept. 1 at Stockton.