For the past two seasons, the Boonville Lady Pirates volleyball team have been about as good as they come while recording 20 win seasons under head coach Morgan Sprigg.
However with only one starter and two returning letterwinners back this season, the Lady Pirates will feature an entirely different team than in years past.
The good news is that the numbers are about the same as last year with 23 girls suited out for the 2016 season. But while finishing 22-9-3 overall and 8-2 in the NCMC last season, that record along with back-to-back district titles could be in jeopardy.
“I think we are going to be decent,” Sprigg said. “I think losing those six players was hard but these girls have stepped up and I have seen so much improvement in the last three weeks. I see ourselves having a winning record.”
Maybe the Jamboree last week was a step in the right direction for the Lady Pirates. Sprigg said the girls did well by beating Centralia and North Callaway and then losing to Father Tolton.
“They kind of surprised me because we had a terrible practice the night before,” Sprigg said. “These girls seem to play well together and that will be huge when it comes time to play in the NCMC.”
Sprigg said as always the Hannibal Lady Pirates will be the team to beat in the conference. Sprigg said even though their numbers are down, they are still quick on defense and it’s always hard to find an open spot on the floor against them. Sprigg said Fulton will be right up there with Boonville.
“I don’t think they lost anybody so I think they will be good competition,” Sprigg said. “The key for us I feel is that the defense is going to be decent. From what I have seen in practice they are picking up a lot of stuff. If my defense can pick it up on the back row then we will be able to run a good offense.”
Although the Lady Pirates were hit hard by graduation, Sprigg said she still believes the strength of the team this season will lie in the defense. She said juniors Kelsey Bishop, Sara Clinton and Brianna Walker play defense very well together and don’t let many balls touch the ground.
“Those three girls also do a good job of passing the ball to our setter so we can run the offense,” Sprigg said. “My hitting is also strong offensively. I think we can also be a threat with Brynn (Edwards) being at the net and her height. She has also stepped up her blocking this season.”
Like every coach in volleyball, communication is key in every match and Boonville is no exception. Sprigg said when the girls are communicating the offense is ran very well. “Right now my setters and hitters aren’t hitting well enough to run the offense,” Sprigg said. “One of my goals for the season is for the girls to stay positive and just communicate as a team. Of course I would love to win the conference and beat Hannibal. I think the girls would also like to win the district for the third year in a row, and as always the goal is moving up and moving on to the state tournament.”
Starting with the middle hitters, the Lady Pirates will definitely have size up front with 5-11 junior Brynn Edwards and 5-10 sophomore Lawren Luscombe.
As the only returning starter from last year, Edwards returns after finishing the 2015 season with 65 kills on 238 attack attempts along with 30 blocks and 15 digs.
Sprigg said Edwards has come a long way since last year. “Brynn has really improved and doesn’t let many balls get by her,” Sprigg said. “She has also gotten quicker on her feet which has allowed her to be a better blocker and hitter. She has also become a leader on the floor and has gotten a lot better at placing the ball. I think Brynn will be a threat offensively and defensively.”
As for Luscombe, she saw mostly JV action last year but has improved and has what Sprigg calls a very good volleyball IQ. “Lawren will be a threat in the middle just because of her height,” Sprigg said. “We are working on her blocking and hitting but she is another player that has improved every day.
The outside hitters will also be new at the varsity level in juniors Kelsey Bishop and Dana Lester. While both playing pivotal roles on the JV team last year, Sprigg said Bishop has gotten a lot better and will play the power position. “Kelsey can hit the ball very hard and is getting better about being accurate with her hits and she is quick playing defense and gets to every ball.”
As for Lester, Sprigg said she has improved a lot this year and has gotten stronger. “Dana is getting better at hitting the ball to open spots on the court,” Sprigg said. “She came off the bench and saw a little action last year at the varsity level so we are hoping that experience will help her this season.”
Senior Lindsey Harris also saw action at the varsity level last year and finished with 13 service points along with 38 digs and six kills on 22 attack attempts.
Sprigg said Harris will play all-around for the Lady Pirates. “Lindsey has really stepped up and become a team leader,” Sprigg said. “She tries to keep the team positive and has really improved over the last year.”
Sprigg will also look to junior Shayann Potter to step in at the setter position. While playing mostly JV last year, Sprigg said Potter will be the quarterback of the team and will run the floor.
“Shayann is getting better running the floor and getting to the ball,” Sprigg said. “She is feeling more confident and seeing the ball a lot better.”
Sprigg will also rely heavily on junior Sara Clinton to play the libero position this fall. Sprigg said Clinton is another one that has stepped up.
“She is way more confident in herself and talking a lot more on the floor, which is what the libero is supposed to do,” Sprigg said. “She is passing the ball extremely well and doesn’t let many balls touch the ground. She’s also been very aggressive on serve-receive.”
Another player that Sprigg is counting on this season is junior Brianna Walker. Sprigg said Walker will come off the bench to play back row power position for Lester. “Brianna doesn’t let the ball touch the ground and her passes are very consistent to the setter,” Sprigg said.
Other players who will come off the bench to help out this season are Hannah Gross and Mackenzie Lutz as backside hitters and MJ Goff and Kyleigh Skoufos as defensive specialists.