By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer
Four seniors will lead what is still a team of mostly underclassmen as Carl Junction begins its quest for a fourth straight Big 8 Conference volleyball championship.
Head coach Sarah Wall, who won her 200th career match during a 23-6-6 season last fall, has added a degree of difficulty to the Bulldogs’ schedule by entering a tournament against some of the top teams in the Springfield area.
“We’ll see some premier Class 4 teams,” she said. “We don’t think our schedule can get much harder.
“We have a lot of young talent back. We have so much depth and a lot of kids who have varsity experience,” she said. “We can rotate kids in and you’re not going to notice. They’re all strong players.”
Carl Junction’s seniors are defensive specialist Shelby Wilson, middle hitter Katie Skaggs, libero Katie Wiele and outside hitter/middle hitter Jalee Dollarhide.
Wiele had a team-best 401 digs and played in all of the team’s 75 sets last season, while Dollarhide had 21 kills in 33 sets. Wilson and Skaggs saw limited playing time last season.
Although Hope Joyner has moved on to play at Pittsburg State, Carl Junction still will have a potent attack, led by junior Mackenzie Irwin and sophomore Maria Chism as outside hitters. Chism led the team with 235 kills and a .255 hitting percentage, while Irwin was third on the team with 167 kills.
Outside hitter Tobey Adams, setter Bradyn Wall and defensive specialists Candace Tracy and Brianna Mertens all are juniors and returning starters. Wall led the team with an average of 8.7 assists per set.
“We’ve had a good summer,” Wall said. “We won our league and we won the Licking camp league. All of our girls play club volleyball, and that makes things a lot easier.
“If we stay healthy and keep competing the way we have, we’ll have an opportunity to be successful down the road.”
Juniors Samantha Kopp and Kenna Cristy also return, along with sophomores Catherine Repsher and Deardin Kelley. Repsher, a middle hitter, missed last season because of an injury.