By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
While 2021 was a successful season for Carl Junction volleyball, the 24-11 team fell short of a second-straight district title thanks to an all-to-familiar rival in Webb City.
Over the past four years, the two schools have taken turns ending the other’s season during district play.
Carl Junction head coach Cheryl Sharples, entering her seventh season at the helm, is hopeful the loss will motivate her team heading into the fall campaign.
“We were disappointed in the loss in districts,” Sharples said. “We will use that to learn and focus on our goals for this season.”
A talented trio of graduates depart the program in Jessa Hylton, Olivia Vediz and Maggie Brown.
Hylton, an all-state player in 2020, tore her ACL midway through the season.
“This class made a big impact on the program early in their careers,” Sharples said. “Hylton was a four-year starter, Vediz and Maggie Brown were three-year starters. We will miss their work leadership and humor. They brought a fun aspect to the team.”
Carl Junction’s 2022 postseason aspirations will be led by the talented duo of Logan Jones and Destiny Buerge.
Jones, a senior setter, finished with 1003 assists, 61 aces, 132 kills, 30 blocks and 231 digs. The Arkansas University commit received all-state honors for a second-straight season.
“Lo holds all setting records at CJ and has a great knowledge of the game,” Sharples said. “She puts her hitters in situations to be successful, she is a good leader and we will look for big things from her this season.”
Buerge, a senior outside hitter, recorded 319 kills, 26 aces and 283 digs in 2021.
“Destiny is a solid ball-control kid for us,” Sharples said. “We will look for her to be a solid six-rotation player. Like Jones, she has started for us since she was a freshman.”
The returning pair are joined by junior Kylie Scott and sophomore Carissa Chase.
Scott, an outside/middle hitter, posted 239 kills, 57 blocks and 25 aces last season.
“Kylie returns with two years of starting experience,” Sharples said. “She led us in blocks last season, and she will be a big part of our offense this season.”
Chase, a sophomore right side hitter, posted 177 kills and 23 blocks as a freshman.
“Carissa was a starter about three weeks into the season and made a quick impact on the right side,” Sharples said. “We will look for her to make a big contribution at the net.”
Sharples expects several varsity newcomers to also make an impact this fall, including senior middle Adia Kennedy, junior middle Aubreigh Fowler, senior defensive specialist Jocelyn Brown sophomore defensive specialist Jocelyn Wengert, junior defensive specialist Abigail Wilson and senior outside hitter Chloe Taylor.
With a mix of talent and experience on the roster, Sharples once again has high expectations for her team.
“We have a good core of kids returning that are committed to building a strong team bond,” Sharples said. “We always expect to be a district contender and look for a deeper run in the off season.”
Carl Junction’s attack begins in the middle with the playmaker Jones, who will likely hit the 3,000 assist milestone at some point during the season.
“Lo is very good at putting her hitters in successful situations,” Sharples said. “She sees the floor well and attacks well.”
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Surrounding Jones will be effective hitters and defenders ready to push Carl Junction to the next step and beyond.
“Our pin hitters are effective and see the floor well,” Sharples said. “We have a solid block and size at the net, and our defensive specialists bring quickness to the court.”
Following an Aug. 23 jamboree at Nixa, the Bulldogs open the regular season Aug. 30 at home against Kickapoo.