The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

August 31, 2013

Volleyball Eagles ready for opener

Staci Saunders has a veteran cast in her third season as volleyball coach at Joplin High School.

The Eagles are coming off a splendid 24-12-2 season in which they lost 25-21, 25-23 to No. 1 seed Republic in a semifinal of the Class 4 District 12 Tournament at Carthage.

“I’m very excited about the season,” Saunders said. “We had a good summer at the different camps. We played well in our jamboree at Carthage. Our seniors are providing great leadership. The players are working hard in practices. Plus, it’s a fun group.”

Joplin has three returning starters in seniors Anna Banwart, Rebekah Bjorklund and Leah Rader. There are three more seniors in Marisa Gilbreth, Sidnee Palmer and Hunter Winkle.

Rader, Saunders said, received honorable mention in the Ozark Conference.

Six juniors complete the varsity roster: Molly Banwart (Anna’s sister), Emma Hueller, Maddie Johnson, Kate Salmon, Haley Sloan and Lauren Stringer.

“This team is capable of springing some surprises,” Saunders said. “They play with heart. They want to win.

“Our goal is to win the Ozark Conference (Springfield Kickapoo reigned in 2012),” Saunders said. “I believe we can be in contention.”

The Eagles debut on Tuesday at Class 3 power Carl Junction with the tripleheader starting at 5 p.m. with the freshman match.

Coach Sarah Wall’s Bulldogs rallied to beat the visiting Eagles 22-25, 25-14, 25-20 in 2012 in an opener.

Probable starters for the Eagles include setter Palmer and middle hitters Rader and Sloan. Anna Banwart is the likely right side hitter and Winkle the probable libero. Competing for the start as an outside hitter, Saunders said, are Bjorklund, Salmon and Stringer.

Playing Carl Junction is special because of Wall, Saunders said.

“Coach Wall has been very helpful to me,” Saunders said. “I consider her and Sandy (coach Sandy Montgomery) my mentors.

“Dad (Bob Tignor), of course, is No. 1,” Saunders quickly added with a laugh.

Montgomery, retired from Joplin R-8, coaches eighth-grade volleyball at Ozark, Saunders said.

Montgomery coached Saunders in basketball at JHS and assisted Joyce Woods in volleyball.

Saunders, whose 2011 Joplin team won 19 matches, is assisted this season by Danielle Falor, Amber Travis and Jenifer Vieselmeyer.

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