When the Boonville Lady Pirates volleyball team step out on the floor for the first time this season tonight against the California Pintos, they will be looking to maintain a reputation for competitiveness.
With 22 players suited out for the 2013 season, the Lady Pirates  are also coming off another successful season after finishing 20-13-2 overall and 7-3 in the North Central Missouri Conference.
However while finishing runner up to Hannibal in the NCMC and Fulton in the district tournament, head coach Susie Stone said this season the goal is “One more step”.
“Each season we really never know what to expect but we try to do the little things right and get better each day and in the end usually good things happen as a result,” Stone said. “Our athletes know that this is a game of momentum and the key in almost every situation is either keeping momentum or breaking momentum. We have just fallen short in some of our team goals for the past couple of seasons and this year’s team has decided to make one more step their motto because it applies to all of the skills in our game, plus their overall attitude in advancing toward their goals.”
With six returning letterwinners from last year, Stone said the team will be made up of four seniors, six juniors, eight sophomores and four freshmen.
Stone also sees the conference as a two-team race between Hannibal and Fulton. She said Hannibal returns all of their players in rotation except two and Fulton will have a strong front line with some height and an experienced defensive core. However, she said they did lose one key piece of their lineup.
“Over the summer I saw Marshall play and they look to be much stronger than in season’s past,” Stone said. “They are on their way to fight for the top of the conference spot along with Kirksville, who has an abundant amount of height and they could actually be the one that surprises everyone this year. If we execute we will be fighting at the top of the pack in the conference this season.”
Although the Lady Pirates will have a new look this season with just three returning starters, Stone said the goal is to compete every match and get better every day in practice. She said the girls are looking to be one of those teams that takes you by surprise and fights hard defensively to keep everything off the floor.
“I feel we have more offensive threats this year due to experience but we will live and die by our ball control and blocking,” Stone said. “We have to work hard to make our opponents commit unforced errors. Right now we are working at getting stronger at the net with blocking and working on timing and consistency with our setters and hitters. I am also hoping for an injury free season. We plan to grow together this season and see where hard work can take us as a team.
“We have several returning letterwinners and I am looking for us to only grow and become better as the season progresses. The team knows one of our weaknesses is consistent communication on the court and they are working hard at getting stronger in that area of the game. The girls set a goal to compete for conference championship, district title and try to take the next step and get back to state playoffs. I do firmly believe that is a realistic goal if we execute and perform daily to our capabilities and stay injury free as a team.”
Led by a senior class of four, Kristin Hoff returns as a three-year letterwinner for the Lady Pirates as a defensive specialist. While receiving all-conference, all-district and all-region honors last year, Hoff also closed out the season with 592 digs, 135 service points with 43 aces and 39 kills.
Stone said Hoff’s passing is her strong skill. “Kristin can play various defensive roles for us but her strong asset is her ability to read a hitter,” Stone said. “She must serve-receive for us in every rotation to help solify our serve-receive. She is a team anchor and I look for her to step up her leadership role this season. Kristin also has good setting hands and can attack from the outside pins and back row. We will possibly look for her this season to expand her role on the team into other phases of the game besides defense.”
Taylor Fry also returns for the Lady Pirates as a two-year letterwinner. While Fry can hit from the outside, middle and right side, Stone said her blocking has gotten stronger at the net and her serving is consistent.
“Taylor has a strong arm swing so we are continuing to work on her hitting consistency and timing with new setters,” Stone said. “She needs to step up and be a positive team leader this year. She is a strong outside hitter and it is possible we may use her some this season at that spot.”
Fry also put up some pretty good numbers last year with 93 kills, 76 block assists and 23 solo blocks.
Another three-year varsity letterwinner for the Lady Pirates this season is senior Anna Davis. While finishing last year with 141 kills along with 87 digs, 32 block assists and nine solo blocks, Stone said Davis will be called upon this season to help out with the front line hitting and blocking responsibilities.
“Anna is a versatile player,” Stone said. “She blocks big and has a quick arm swing. She has just begun to tap into her capabilities as a hitter. Her timing is improving daily working with new setters this year. Anna will help us on the outside and backside pin as well as some in the middle this year. I look for hitting production from her this season to be consistent in order for use to have success.”
Senior Raven Stone will also return at the right side hitting position this season for Boonville. While closing out the 2012 season with 58 kills, Stone also had 58 digs, 55 block assists and 49 assists along with 26 solo blocks.
“Raven’s blocking over the summer improved and we look for her to help anchor our blocking on strong ball side with our middles,” Stone said. “Raven has strong setting hands and gives our offense options when the setter takes the first ball. We should not miss a beat or be out of system when right sides has to take second ball. Raven sees the floor well offensively from the back side and her strong suit is being able to find the open holes on the court.”
The junior class will also give the Lady Pirates much needed depth this season. Players who will see ample playing time this season for Boonville are Kylie Hohensee, MacKenzie Ficken, Daryl Fagan, Anna Terlep, Emilyn O’Laughlin and Alyssa Dell.
Hohensee, the most experienced of the group, returns after finishing last season with 183 digs along with 148 service points, 24 aces and 18 kills.
Stone said Hohensee is a steady passes and her serve-receive is getting stronger. “We will look to her to step up and become a consistent piece of the puzzle in our passing game defensively,” Stone said. “she is a versatile player who can set, hit and play defense. We are going to use her in many roles this year, so she must be prepared to handle various roles for us.”
As for Ficken, Stone said she will be looked upon to fill the role of a setter. She said Ficken is a hard worker and loves the game. “She has physically had some setbacks over the years but she has worked hard to overcome her previous injuries,” Stone said. “She has a strong serve and is willing to improve her game and do whatever is asked of her.”
Like Hoff, Stone said Fagan will be a defensive specialist. She said Fagan has a solid touch on the ball and is getting better at reading and more confident every day.  “She must communicate and become stronger verbally,” Stone said. “She will help our defense and serving this season.”
As for Terlep, Stone said she will help with hitting and blocking this season. While finishing the 2012 season with 119 digs along with 72 service points with nine aces, Stone said Terlep’s height is a plus for her.
“Anna is a hard worker but she is also strong and her passing game is improving daily,” Stone said. “Her hitting has definitely improved in the off-season and she will help stabilize our front row block and attack.”
Stone will also look to O’Laughlin to hit and block this season. She said while she is working on being stronger at the net, O’Laughlin will be looked upon to be a strong leader for the junior varsity squad. As for Dell, Stone said she is working on learning the game and is getting better each day. “She is athletic and keeps practice entertaining,” Stone said.
Leading the sophomore class this season are Jessica Luscombe and Emma Goff. Stone said Luscombe will be thrusted into the varsity atomsphere quick.
“Jessica’s strongest asset is her blocking,” Stone said. “She has long arms and can help us at the net with our defensive scheme. She is continually working on hitting timing and getting stronger each day. We need her to gain confidence and quickly because she will be a key piece for us at the net this season.”
As for Goff, Stone said she will help fill the role of a setter this season. She said Goff has good clean hands and is working on strengthening her ability to be more consistent with set placement. “She worked hard in the off-season and must grow up fast with game knowledge when it comes to making wise decisions.”
Other sophomores who may see the varsity level this season include Sophie Taube, Sydnee Poindexter and Kelsi Dillender. Stone said all three of these girls are pushing themselves in practice to get better and they will help make the defense and offense stronger.
Stone said Holly Brady has also improved over the off-season and is a strong leader at the JV level and will be looked upon this year to play various roles. Kyra Price, meanwhile, is a newcomer this year and is working at help fill the setter position at the JV level. As for Keely Fenton, Stone said she is battling some injury right now but she is improving and looks to help at the serving line for the JV.
The freshmen class this season includes Lindsey Harris, Ashley King, Emily Gibson and Alexis Chumprai. Stone said Harris is a hard worker and loves the game and is willing to do whatever is asked of her. “She is battling an injury currently and we are looking forward to her return at the JV level,” Stone said.