Parker installs new system to accent current squad
Tonganoxie High has experienced the same substitution method the last two years -- five seniors in 2003 replaced five seniors in 2002 who replaced five seniors in 2001.
After THS finished the 2000 season 9-24, coach Tiffany Parker arrived, guiding the Chieftains to an 18-16 record in 2001 and a 25-12 record last year.
But for Tonganoxie to increase the number in the win column again this season, the Chieftains will have to use different offensive and defensive schemes.
"This year's team's a lot different than last year in that last year's team had a lot of height," Parker said.
Much of that height came from Vanessa Wardy, who stands about 6-0. Wardy is now playing volleyball at Baker University, while Christie Menhusen and Laura Samuels are playing volleyball at Manhattan Christian College. Jennifer Reischman is on the rowing team at Kansas State, and Karley Bennett is now a freshman at Emporia State.
Taking over those five senior spots this season are Kelly Breuer, Katie Jeannin, Rebekah Mages, Mollie McCaffrey and Michelle McWilliams.
Again, it will be a different lineup, but Parker has faith in her newest senior batch.
"I'm encouraged with the leadership of our seniors," Parker said.
The Chieftains will have a freshman on the varsity squad for the first time under Parker. Rookie Ali Pistora is the team's tallest player at 5-11. Parker also welcomes back junior Addie Heim, who also will try to replace some of last year's height.
"We lost players, but we gained players, too," senior Mollie McCaffrey said.
This year's seniors know they won't have that same height luxury as last season. But the unified group -- the five players like to display matching rainbow coiled shoe laces -- is eager for another substate championship match and a possible trip to state. That likely would mean playing arch rival Lansing again in substate. The Lions defeated Tonganoxie in three games last October and then claimed the Class 4A state title a week later.
Making it back to that title game will require a shakeup in strategy for Parker.
This season, with an overall smaller lineup, she said her team would have to be stronger on defense.
"We can't rely on that first hit this year," Parker said.
The Chieftains will use a three-middle system this season, a formation that's not common in the Kaw Valley League. The set involves players moving into different positions more often than other formations.
The new system seems to be working for the team, which doesn't open the regular season until Sept. 11 in Bonner Springs against the host school and Atchison and Baldwin.
The seniors will be ready for that quadrangular, which allows the Chieftains a shot at perennial power Baldwin.
"We're prepared for everyone this year," McCaffrey said.