Lady ‘Cats building on success
This year's Basehor-Linwood High School volleyball team has five seniors on its roster, but only two of those seniors have varsity experience.
Outside hitter Lindsay Cunningham and three-year starting setter Cristin Burnett return to a Bobcats' lineup that lost five starters from last year. However, BLHS coach Mardy Robinson is confident that her returning players will be enough to build around.
In addition to returning Burnett and Cunningham, the Bobcats will have junior Katie Burchfield lurking around the net.
Burchfield was a critical part of last year's team and Robinson thinks all three girls improved during the summer.
"They all worked extremely hard this summer to get better and I think they did," Robinson said. "It's hard to say what our overall talent level will be like, but now that these girls are in a leadership role, I think they'll accept it with no problem."
Whether that will be enough to produce a lot of victories remains to be seen.
Seniors Tiffany Bates, Aubrey Bittel and Jennifer Douglas are the other three seniors on the roster.
Although none of the other seniors played last season, they have all played volleyball before. Robinson expects the seniors' maturity to help the team succeed.
"We lost five starters and six varsity players altogether, so really we're a whole new team," Robinson said. "But I think we should be a top 5 team in our league and depending on who we draw at sub-state, we have the ability to do just about anything."
Because they're a new team, Robinson said it was hard for her to put this year's team goals in terms of wins and losses.
However, those returning players that tasted victory last season are expecting the wins to come along with a lot more.
"The chemistry of our team is a lot better this year and I think that's going to lead to a lot of wins," Cunningham said. "I know we're going to try our hardest every time out, and it's going to be a lot of fun this year."
Trying hard was not always something last year's team did. It became routine for the Bobcats to pull out a big win and follow it up with a disappointing loss. Burchfield said the reason the Bobcats were able to advance to the second round of sub-state last season was because they pulled it together at the right time.
She's hoping the team learned from last season and will pull it together from start to finish this year.
"After having so many ups and downs last year and then finally pulling it together at sub-state, we know what it takes," she said. "This year we're going to try to play at that level the whole season and eliminate those downs."
Whether the team will have more ups than downs remains to be seen, but in the early going, Robinson said the team is focusing on keeping the ball off the ground. Her emphasis for the first week of practice has been passing.
"If you can't pass then you're done," Robinson said. "There are varsity spots open for people who can pass and our emphasis for the start of the season is passing the ball."
With a strong nucleus returning, Robinson expects good things out of this season, but how many wins that will produce is a mystery.
"We're just going to go as hard as we can and see what happens," Robinson said. "The main thing is that we want to have fun. Volleyball season is always so much fun."
The fun gets under way for the Bobcats Sept. 3 at Baldwin.