The Northwest High School Lady Mustangs return two-thirds of last season’s starting lineup, which gives them confidence they can improve their 15-14-2 record.
Three of the four seniors are expected to start, including Lakota Wiskur, Jessi Zimmerman and Tori Shireman.
Senior Courtney Morris is new to varsity this season, but could find herself in the rotation as well.
The Lady Mustangs get their first crack at other teams on Tuesday at the Sweet Springs jamboree. Wellington will be the third team.
Second year coach Chelsea Gieselman said something she’ll be watching is Shireman’s ability to spike during the jamboree.
“She’s a really good left handed hitter,” she said. “She gets around the block really good, so I’m really excited to see somebody block against her and see what she does.”
Gieselman said she’s also excited to just see her entire team together at the same time. She said several of the girls work at the Missouri State Fair, so she’s getting everyone together Sunday for practice.
“We haven’t had all of our girls here at the same time,” she said. “That’s been pretty rough. We are having an open gym on Sunday to try to get everybody together so they can finally scrimmage.”
Nine of the 13 team members were at Thursday’s practice. Gieselman was stressing communication.
“We really struggled with that last year and it’s a lot better than last year already,” she said. “It bothers me because I came from a school where you always talk, you always call the ball.”
Gieselman played volleyball at Santa Fe High School in Alma and Missouri Valley College in Marshall.
“We do different types of drills and we also have team talks,” Gieselman said. “I think that puts them closer together when they talk.”
Along with communication, some of the players have said they want to get better at blocking.
“They put in their input,” Gieselman said. “They struggle with stuff that I don’t see sometimes, but I love that they give me input. Some of them really want to work on blocking. Lakota wants to better herself in blocking this year.”
For offensive support, Zimmerman will be slotted into her usual setter position.
“She’s an amazing setter,” Gieselman said. “She gets to every ball. It’s crazy.”
Juniors Hanna Gregory and Jessie Ehlers, along with freshman Ashlynn Liebl are also expected to be starters alongside Zimmerman.
Liebl and fellow freshman Megan Walk are two young players Gieselman said she’s excited to see play. Megan’s sister Kendal graduated last year.
Sophomore Allison Barnes is another young player that will get playing time.
“She’s getting really good at blocking, so I’m happy with that,” Gieselman said.
The Lady Mustangs used the summer to prepare for 2014. They played against area teams such as Higginsville, Lexington, Carrollton and Warrensburg.
“We played some really good teams and they got some good practice this summer,” Gieselman said.
The hope is that extra practice will get the team further than last year, losing 2-1 to Stover in the district semifinals.
“We almost beat Stover,” Gieselman said. “So close.”