The Hillsboro volleyball team will make its debut in the new Central Kansas League with a whole new look.
Gone from the regular playing rotation of last year?s 30-10, state-qualifying team are five seniors and a sophomore transfer. That list includes power-hitting Dakota Kaufman, a first-team all-league and all-state performer now playing at Kansas State, Candace Wein?bren??ner, a first-team all-league setter, and Taryn Mayfield, a second-team all-league middle hitter.
Coach Sandy Arnold, who has compiled a 163-57 record through six seasons at HHS with four state appearances, returns only two letter-winners from that team.
?There are several spots open in our lineup,? Arnold said in an understatement.
Her two returning letter-winners are senior Allie Faul, a 5-foot, 5-inch honorable-mention all-league setter and libero, and sophomore hitter Tena Loewen (6-0), who developed into an impact player during her freshman season.
?Those two will be the core,? Arnold said.
Faul will be the team?s primary setter this season and will play libero once more.
?I think that says a lot for Allie, if you can go from being a setter to being a libero and back to being a setter,? Arnold said. ?She?s very versatile.?
Beyond her court play, Faul has stepped up as a team leader this fall.
?Allie is a very good leader,? Arnold said. ?She?s always led by example, but this year she?s sort of been forced into the vocal part of it, too.?
Arnold affirmed her two returning players for their commitment to the weight room this summer.
?I had several girls in the weight room this summer, but Tena and Allie sort of led the way,? Arnold said. ?I don?t think Allie missed except for vacation and maybe one other day.
?I can tell that the weight room has helped her because her jump is a little higher and I think she?s a little quicker than she was,? she added.
Loewen, meanwhile, is the prime candidate to fill the huge void in the Trojan attack created by Kaufman?s departure.
?We?re going to go to her a lot,? Arnold said about Loewen. ?She?s playing well in practices. She plays hard at all times, and never gives up on a ball. She does a great job of making something out of a bad set?she?s always trying to attack.?
Though her impact will be most obvious on the front row, Loewen?s athleticism gives her versatility.
?I will use her everywhere,? Arnold said. ?She?s in every serve-receive we have, and she will be our primary hitter?although there are several others coming along.
?The thing about Tena?and I?m sure every coach in this district will tell you this?she is so coachable,? she added. ?She will do the little things even when she?s not being told to do the little things. You?ve got to love a kid like that.?
Beyond those two starters, Arnold identified three players with the potential to be key contributors this fall: senior middle hitter Hayley Jirak (5-8) and juniors Callie Serene (5-4) and Krista Reimer (5-9).
Serene?s quickness and savvy will be felt particularly in the back row, although she will be a secondary setter in Arnold?s modified 6-2 attack.
Reimer, meanwhile, has made great strides as a hitter and blocker during the preseason, Arnold said, and will be an impact player on the front row.
?The rest of the starting spots are up for grabs,? said the Trojan coach. ?There is a large group of girls with a great deal of potential and athletic ability. The girls who fill these spots will be young and inexperienced and will need time working together.?
Last season, the Trojans placed second in the Mid-Central Activities Association to Wichita Collegiate, who went on to win the Class 3A state title.
With the Spartans moving to another league in 2010, Arnold looks to Hesston as being the team to beat in the new Central Kansas League.
The Trojans may have sent a message this past Saturday that they shouldn?t be counted out as a title contender just yet after winning the preseason league tournament in Pratt.
Despite the title, Arnold sizes up her team cautiously.
?With such a young and inexperienced team, we will need some time to get ourselves in the place we want to be,? Arnold said. ?I hope to see great improvements throughout the season with this group as we gain valuable court experience.?
In addition to the CKL tournament, Hillsboro will play in the always competitive Canton-Galva Invitational on Oct. 2 and will host a strong field at the Trojan Classic on Oct. 16.
Hillsboro?s next action will be against Moundridge and South?east of Saline at Marion Sept. 2, before the Trojans make their home-court debut Sept. 7 against Hesston and Douglass.