Even though this is Kris Burkholder’s first stint at the helm of Marion’s volleyball program, it’s not the first time she’s coached the athletes who will take the court.
That’s because Burkholder steps into her first head high school coaching role after serving as Marion’s middle school volleyball coach the past nine years. She’s also held coaching positions in the Rural Vista and Remington school districts, and before that, in Marion as Jim Versch’s assistant.
“I’ve coached all these girls in middle school,” Burkholder said. “It’s fun to come and see the growth and just to be able to be involved in this level of play.”
New team, new roles
Marion ended the 2017 season with an overall record of 23-14 after a 2-1 loss to Herington in the Class 2A sub-state quarterfinals. The Warriors graduated six seniors from that team: Bailey Baker, Kourtney Hansen, Courtney Herzet, Jessi Lewman, Alli Molleker and Sam Richmond.
Marion dropped from Class 3A to Class 2A last season, and will compete in Class 2A again this year. Beginning this year, there will be six KSHSAA classifications instead of eight, eliminating the second divisions in Classes 4A and 1A.
With the loss of last year’s seniors, the Warriors will welcome new faces to the court, as well as familiar ones in different roles.
Two of the 21 players on the Warrior roster return with starting experience.
Senior Tori Shults brings starting experience as an outside hitter a year ago. Burkholder expects Shults to contribute as a middle hitter this season.
“[Tori] brings a lot of leadership to the team,” Burkholder said. “She is in a different role this year because she’s playing middle where last year she played outside, but she’s doing a great job as a middle.
“When she’s on, she’s going to be hard to defend.”
Senior Corrina Crabb returns with starting experience on the right side, a position she is expected to play again this season. Burkholder described Crabb as a “versatile” player who has the ability to step in and set if needed.
“[Corrina] is playing right side hitter for us and also all the way around,” Burkholder said. “She’s doing great. […] She has the ability to really hustle on the back row and get passes up to the setter, too.”
Two additional letter-winners return.
Junior Chloe Burkholder was a serving specialist a year ago. She will transition to a setting role this season, a position she filled occasionally last year.
“[Chloe is] doing very well as a setter and running the court,” Coach Burkholder said. “She has a lot of experience in that setting position because she’s played club for years, so she’s very comfortable in that position. She’s doing well there.”
Sophomore Laura Savage is another returning letter-winner. An outside hitter last year, she is expected to play in the middle this season.
“She’s adjusted very well and is doing well,” Burkholder said. “Laura has such an arm span and is so tall; we need her up in the middle for blocks because our middle will block all the way across. She’s going to be a big factor in not only our hitting but our blocking, as well as Tori.”
Burkholder will rely on five newcomers for contributions as well, including senior defensive specialist Michaela Regnier; junior outside hitter Lily Lundy; outside hitter Chisholm Waner and outside hitter/middle hitter Megan Neufeld, both sophomores; and freshman libero/outside hitter Jayden May.
Burkholder said one strength of this year’s team is its determination.
“They are determined to be successful,” she said. “They’re hard-working. They’re a fun group of girls. They are very coachable. They will try anything we throw at them. They want to be successful.”
That success hinges partially on developing consistency in passing and serve receive, Burkholder said.
“We’re inexperienced, as far as varsity players, and our passing is something I don’t think we can ever practice enough at any level,” she said. “That’s the one thing that isn’t there where I want it yet.”
If effort and attitude have anything to do with it, look for the Warriors to contend this season.
“I would say determination and attitude and effort are our strengths,” Burkholder said. “Effort’s one thing that you can’t coach. But if your girls have that effort, you can be so much more successful.”
Marion opened the season at Peabody-Burns on Saturday. The Warriors will host Central Christian in a dual Thursday at 6 p.m.