By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Blue Eye is entering its fifth season under Taylor Wittl and the results have been nothing short of impressive with three seasons of 19 or more wins and a pair of district titles. Prior to her arrival, Blue Eye hadn’t hit double digit wins in four years.
Now, with five starters and the libero back from last season, the Bulldogs are hunting for their third district championship in the last four years after having eventual Class 1 runner-up Lesterville end their season last year in Sectionals.
“I expect this season to be one where it is hard to find one individual that stands out from the rest because they will all be a dominant force in whatever role they have been given,” said Wittl. “These girls are extremely talented athletes and what makes them so great is their work ethic. They go hard in the gym every day and strive for perfection in every skill they perform. They are eager for competition to get underway and are yearning for their shot to make it past sectionals this year.”
Senior Riley Arnold returns after leading Blue Eye in kills (335), aces (45) and digs (316).
She was an All-State selection as a junior.
Classmate Kyla Warren finished second in kills last year with 163 and led the team with 32 blocks. Senior Makayla Johnson (250) and Gracyn Fairchild (194) were among the team-leaders in digs.
One of the biggest additions will be the return of Avery Arnold, who missed the majority of last year with an injury. As a sophomore she finished with 359 assists and 115 kills.
“Last year was a challenging one losing our top setter Avery Arnold to an injury early on in the season, but with her injury came growth from juniors Lily Feagans and Emma Bumpus, that we had to pull up in order to fill her position,” said Wittl. “This has allowed the girls to gain team chemistry and up their level of play to where they will be in a better spot mentally and physically to tackle this upcoming season.”
Now juniors, Feagans and Bumpus, as well as classmate Samantha George, will look to make an even bigger impact this fall.
Skye Hobbs is a senior this year who will also be seeing time at the varsity level. She is described as a go-getter and has that never quit mentality that we need.
The pieces are in place for a deep playoff run and that’s exactly what Wittl and the program are expecting this fall.
“This group of girls have made history being the first team to win a district title in Blue Eye and for most this is their last shot to be the group that made it all the way,” said Wittl. “They all have had state success in every other sport they have participated in throughout their high school career, and they are ready to make it to where they are able to include every sport.”
Blue Eye will attend Sparta’s jamboree on Aug. 26 with Ava and Conway. The Bulldogs will open the 2021 season on Aug. 30 at Berryville (Ark.).