Boonville Lady Pirates volleyball coach Morgan Sprigg likes to call the 2016 season a thing of the past.
While the Lady Pirates slipped below the .500 mark for the season at 11-12-2 overall, Sprigg said it all started with the injury of then junior Kelsey Bishop to start the season.
Of course there were other things that led to the losing record such as communication on the floor or lack thereof.
But that’s all gone. This season with 23 girls suited out for the 2017 season, Sprigg will return five starters and six letterwinners to rid the 2016 season goodbye.
“I have five returning starters back so they have the experience under their belt,” Sprigg said. “They have been sitting varsity or playing varsity for three years now so I think that we can have a winning record this year. With having Kelsey go down last year early it hurt us mentally and physically but they were young and I don’t think they were as mature yet. I think our communication skills was also downhill and I think that is what caused us a lot of losing games.”
Of course there was a silver lining to the season last year as the Lady Pirates finished the conference season in second place at 7-3.
Sprigg said Hannibal is again the favorite in the NCMC.
“They have been good ever since I have been here and I’m going on my fourth year,” Sprigg said. “They are always strong offensively and defensively. We lost to Marshall  one game last year so I look for them to be scrappy and decent. I know they have a couple of freshmen coming up this year. Fulton also has their moments so I think they could have some potential. I would say we fit in there between Hannibal and Marshall like we have in the past three years. Like I said the girls would love to beat Hannibal and so would I.”
For that to happen in Boonville’s final season in the NCMC, Sprigg said the Lady Pirates will have to communicate better on the floor.
“Our strengths this season will definitely be in our hitting,” Sprigg said. “We have Brynn Edwards and Lawren Luscombe back as middles and they are strong. We also have a new freshman in Hana Cook that’s very powerful and strong. She will help us out offensively, and then Kelsey Bishop and Dana Lester will be outside for me so our hitting will be one of our biggest strengths.”
As for the weaknesses this season, Sprigg said again it has to be communicating on the floor. She said the girls have it offensively and defensively but have to put it together on the floor and communicate as a team.
“We are young,” Sprigg said. “I have about four freshmen that will probably be playing on the varsity team so they are not going to be as experienced as the older girls.”
With their sights set on winning a conference and district title and beating Hannibal, Sprigg said she would also like to advance past quarterfinals, which is the furthest she has gone in her three year tenure.
For that to happen, Sprigg will look to five seniors and one junior to carry the load this season for the Lady Pirates.
Of course who better to lead Boonville this season than senior Brynn Edwards, who returns after earning all-conference and all-district honors in 2016. A two-year starter for the Lady Pirates, Edwards returns after leading the team in kills with 148 and blocks with 39.
Sprigg said Edwards will be playing all the way around this season. “She will play hitter and middle back,” Sprigg said. “Brynn is strong and long and she can read the ball really well. She is also getting stronger on her hitting and blocking. She is just going to be a threat with her height in general.”
Junior Lawren Luscombe will also pose a threat on the inside opposite of Edwards at middle. While finishing the season with 86 hits in 341 attack attempts, Sprigg said Luscombe has gotten a lot stronger over the summer. “We are working on her quickness,” Sprigg said, “but I think she is going to be a good threat.”
While it will be hard for teams to match Boonville’s height in the middle, the Lady Pirates will also have an outside threat with senior Dana Lester playing outside hitter. While finishing the team with 87 kills in 266 attack attempts, Lester also had 101 service points with 35 aces and 83 digs.
“Dana hits the ball very well,” Sprigg said. “We are working on timing with her. Sometimes her and Shayann can’t connect so we are working on that but when she gets a hold of the ball she is strong. She also does well blocking and playing outside defensively, too, so I think she will be a good threat.”
Senior Kelsey Bishop will also play outside hitter and possibly back row for Boonville. Sprigg said Bishop will be a threat both offensively and defensively. “She is a powerful hitter and we are glad to see her back on the floor,” Sprigg said. “She sat out last year due to an injury.”
Senior Shayann Potter will also return at the setter position this season for Boonville. While finishing the season with 304 assists and 73 digs, Potter also had 57 service points with 13 aces.
Sprigg said Potter is her quarterback of the team. “She has great hands and plays good defense, we just have to get her to communicate a little lounder and talk a little louder and be more of a leader on the floor.”
Junior MJ Goff will play Libero this season for Boonville. While coming off the bench last year, Sprigg said Goff passes the ball to the target really well. “She gets to about every ball and I don’t see a lot of things dropping in front of her,” Sprigg said.
Goff had 78 assists and 72 digs last year for the Lady Pirates.
Sprigg will also look to senior Brianna Walker in the power position this season. While finishing the 2016 season with 100 digs, Sprigg said Walker will be the defensive specialists for the Lady Pirates. “Brianna can read the defense well whether its a tip or hit, she gets to the ball everytime,” Sprigg said, “and she is smart.”
The future also looks bright for the Lady Pirates with four freshmen possibly seeing the floor this season.
Sprigg said Hana Cook  and Lily Terrell will play backside hitter in the rotation while Jodie Bass will see playing time on the back row along with Makayia West.
“Hana is extremely strong,” Sprigg said. “Between her and Bryan and Lawren the block could be unstoppable. Defensively, she does well on blocking and hitting. As for Jodie, she will play either the power position or the main back position defending on where the open spot is but she will be playing quite a bit. She passes the ball extremely well.
“She is quick and she is long. If she is playing on the back row she can get from corner to corner and not much gets past her. Lily is learning a lot after missing a year, but she is strong, smart and quick.  When I am playing her backside, she hits the ball extremely well. Makayia, meanwhile, will play both positions. She can play all the way around. She will benefit us anywhere. She helps the team out and she is quick. She also passes the ball and hits the ball well.”
Sprigg said this year’s team is a different type of team. She said she will have a lot of girls on the bench that can go into a lot of different positions and not just strictly setter or middle hitter. “I will have a lot of girls that can play all the way around,” Sprigg said.
After the match against Southern Boone, the Lady Pirates will be on the road again on Thursday, August 24th against the California Pintos starting at 6 p.m. Then, on Saturday, August 26th, the Lady Pirates will compete in the Holden Tournament.
Boonville’s first home game of the season will be on Tuesday, August 29th against the Columbia Hickman Kewpies starting at 6 p.m. The Lady Pirates will also host Higginsville on Sept. 5; Hannibal on Sept. 12; Marshall on Sept. 14; Fulton on Sept. 21; Kirksville on Oct. 5; and Mexico on Oct. 10.