The Missouri State Fair gutted an evening Gremlin volleyball practice of its players, leaving two lone juniors in the Sacred Heart gym Thursday.
Head volleyball coach David Fall did not mind the fair’s employment causing setback in attendance. He said the team practiced 19 of the 20 permitted offseason days over the summer.
“We played in four different tournaments and in a Monday night league, and overlapped our open gyms with our league night,” Fall said. “We got a lot of touches this summer.”
Extra reps may help alleviate any early-season jitters, as Sacred Heart features an experienced roster of five seniors and four juniors.
Seniors Hannah Wilhoit and Anna Callis lead the attack for the Gremlins, while junior Addy Wright was noted as the defensive specialist on the roster. Fall said Sacred Heart will play rotations with Annalise Mergen as the lone setter and others with Wright or freshman Grace Goodwin as a second setter.
Sophomores that played varsity last season, Madison McClain and Zoey Volkco, also add depth to Sacred Heart’s roster.
Fall said defense is an element the Gremlins look to strengthen going into its first match Aug. 23 at home against Father Tolton.
“If we’re going to talk areas for improvement,” Fall said. “We still need to improve our defense. That’s our focus right now to improve our front row, our blocking defense and our backing defense.
“Defense is what sets everything else up. I would bet that most of the teams trying to get better, that’s their focus.”
The Gremlins exited last season with a loss to Stover in the Class 1, District 10 tournament and a final record of 15-13-2. Sacred Heart was upset last season in the Kaysinger Conference Tournament by Northwest, and defeated La Monte to claim fifth place.
Fall said he expects more close in-conference competition in 2016.
“The Kaysinger Conference is a good, strong volleyball conference,” Fall said. “Every year you’re going to have five or six teams that are strong and can compete for districts, and that’s good at a class one and two level. That’s good, because it gets us ready for postseason play.
“I’m hoping to be in that mix of five or six.”
Sacred Heart volleyball opens play Tuesday, Aug. 23 against Father Tolton 6 p.m. at Sacred Heart High School in Sedalia.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2