Despite senior-heavy roster, THS volleyball lacks varsity experience
2013 volleyball schedule
Sept. 3 — at Turner
Sept. 5 — vs. Paola
Sept. 9 — at Atchison
Sept. 12 — at Baldwin
Sept. 17 — vs. Basehor-Linwood
Sept. 19 — vs. Pleasant Ridge
Sept. 21 — at Rossville Invitational
Sept. 24 — at Mill Valley
Sept. 26 — vs. Jeff West/P-Ridge
Sept. 28 — Tonganoxie Invitational
Sept. 30 — vs. Holton/KC Christian
Oct. 1 — vs. Lansing
Oct. 7 — at Washington
Oct. 8 — at Piper
Oct. 12 — at De Soto Spikefest
Oct. 15 — vs. Bishop Ward
Oct. 17 — at Bishop Ward
Oct. 21 — at Perry-Lecompton
Oct. 22 — at Bonner Springs
Oct. 26 — Sub-state (TBA)
When the Tonganoxie High volleyball team opens its 2013 season, the varsity squad will feature a senior-heavy roster. But, in all but a few cases, age won’t translate into experience.
Following two losses to graduations and some offseason roster shake-ups, the Chieftains are left with just two players with significant varsity experience. Senior Marissa Martin and sophomore Lauren Jackson were both regular starters in 2012 and will try to lead a squad barely reminiscent of last year’s 18-18 team that reached the sub-state finals.
Martin is arguably the team’s top returner after earning an All-Kaw Valley League honorable mention at libero last season. She led the team with 392 digs and finished fourth with 25 service aces in her junior campaign.
Jackson, who was handed the starting setter job as a freshman, recorded a team-best 630 assists and added 18 aces in her first high school season.
“They kind of set the tone of how they want their team to run,” coach Tiffany Parker said of the varsity returners. “They’ve done a great job of embodying the work ethic. We have some very physically demanding practices, and they’ve been positive throughout. They’ve been great role models for our younger kids.”
Varsity experience is hard to come by elsewhere, as no other current player saw more than spot time in 2012. Seniors Kara Banks and Morgan Oroke played sparingly, but will look to take on larger roles this fall. Fellow seniors Leah Miller, Kaylin Nelson and Kensey Nelson will move up to the varsity level after playing exclusively on junior varsity as juniors.
For the second time in as many years, the Chieftains will start the year with multiple freshmen on varsity. Mykah Wingerter and Taylor Lee will see time in their first high school season and, according to Parker, both have seemed up the challenge in the first weeks of practice.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for them, and they haven’t taken it for granted so far,” she said. “They’ve been working really hard and they now see the expectations of how fast we need to play. It’s a big step up from junior high volleyball, and they’ve really embraced it.”
Sophomores Kaitlin Hall and Cheyenne Ford both saw significant varsity time last season, but both are currently practicing with the JV squad.
Try-outs took place last week, and the team has since practiced in a scrimmage format — primarily to prepare for live-game situations.
“We’ve been doing really fast-paced drills to try to work with them on what they’re going to see (in matches),” Martin said.
Majority of the Chieftains’ new faces will be on the front line, as the team is without its top four kill leaders from a year ago. Jenny Whitledge (407 kills) and Madee Walker (150) are gone to graduation, and current seniors Caly Ingle-Maxwell (105) and Katelyn Waldeier (69) are no longer with the team.
While the varsity roster has tentatively been set, Parker wouldn’t rule out any potential changes before — or during — the season.
“Our varsity is an open door,” she said. “If somebody else is playing well and somebody on varsity is not, then everybody knows there can be that switch. We have a very JV crew and they want to be on varsity, so it’s nice for them to push our varsity kids.”
The Chieftains will open their schedule Sept. 3 at KVL opponent Turner.