By Chris Parker
Cabool volleyball went 28-5-2 last year with a team that featured just two seniors. Those seniors were key contributors in first-team all-conference selection Katlynn Ellison and second-team all-conference honoree Grace Shockley.
The bulk of Cabool’s talent will be seniors this year with seven seniors expected to be key varsity players.
“These girls have played together since they were in fifth grade,” Cabool head coach Julia Reaves said. “They work hard in the off-season and are dedicated to volleyball. I have seven seniors this year. This group of girls is pretty special to me.”
First-team all-conference selection Olivia Scheets leads the returning players. The senior led Cabool in assists (361) and aces (47) while finishing third in kills (143). She return to her spot at setter.
“Olivia has some height and is an all-around volleyball player. She has been working at it since elementary school,” Reaves said. “I expect her to be a leader on and off the court. I expect her to contribute as much and even more than she did last year. She will be expected to make offensive decisions on the floor.”
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Junior Hailey Shannon and senior Josie Atkins were each named second-team all-conference last year.
Shannon led the Lady Bulldogs in kills last year at 217 and return to outside hitter.
“Hailey is a lefty. She can rip a ball if she gets a hold of it,” Reaves said. “I expect her to play smart and have a good attitude along with contributing to our offense.”
Atkins was second on the team in kills at 152. She will be a right side and a setter.
“Josie is one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached. She can see the other team’s court and makes adjustments on the fly. She is who I want the ball to go to in clutch moments,” Reaves said. “She will be my other setter again this year and will also be a right side hitter and blocker. She does very well setting the outside block.”
Seniors Gracie Campbell (libero), Abby Chalfant (defensive specialist), Carly Bennett (middle blocker) and Elizabeth Whetstine (outside hitter) round out the strong group of returning players. Campbell and Chalfant were both named honorable mention all-conference last year.
Alexis Hunter will be a new player to watch on the varsity level as a middle.
While this group of players is familiar with each other, they will have to adjust to the new best-of-five set format for matches that Missouri has adopted for this season.
“It will change the game of volleyball. I personally think that the team that is more mentally tough and has the most physical stamina will win the close games. It will definitely make for some longer nights,” Reaves said.
Cabool opens the season on Sept. 3 at Eminence.
“I expect a lot out of this group of girls. They’ve worked really hard these past three years that I have got to coach them and have come up short too many times. They did win our conference last year and now I think they are ready to build on that,” Reaves said. “I really think that they are ready to prove how hard they have worked. I think it will be an exciting year.”