But that doesn’t mean the Trojans expect to flounder this season, the fourth under coach Sandy Arnold (75-29). To the contrary, her eight returning seniors, which include six battle-tested letter-winners, are determined to succeed.
“They are out to prove that they can do it with who they have on the team right now,” Arnold said. “They think a lot of people believe we’re going to have a down year. So they’re looking to make a name for themselves.
“I think that’s providng a lot of drive for them right now.”
Heading the list of seniors are league honorable-mention selections Amanda Bina (5 feet 4 inches), at libero, and Amy Neufeld (5-7), at outside hitter.
Indeed, the Trojan back row should be solid with returning starters Jessica Klose (5-6) and Jenesa Klose (5-5) lining up with Bina. All three seniors are athletic and combined for 252 digs a year ago.
“Back-row play should be pretty solid,” Arnold said. “We harp on passing a lot, but those girls make a lot of good passes. Sometimes we forget to tell them that.”
The twosome of Chisholm and Frick combined for a whopping 669 kills last season, but the Trojan front row this season is not void of weapons. Outside hitter Neufeld was third on the team with 124 kills.
“Amy Neufeld is obviously going to get a load of the hitting,” Arnold said. “She’s a good player and she needs to be at the ball.”
Also returning to the front row are sophomore Dakota Kaufman (6-0), who contributed 120 blocks and 83 kills as a freshman, and senior Chelsea Bebermeyer (6-0), who will be called upon for special duty on defense.
“We may put Dakota on the outside,” Arnold said. “If that doesn’t work, we can always put her back in the middle. But a lot of balls go that way, so that’s where we want to put her.
“Chelsea probably will play the opposite side,” the Trojan coach added. “She’s going to have to play big because she’ll be blocking the other team’s best hitter.”
Also expected to see time on the front row is senior Corissa Bartel (5-7), who made her mark last year as a server and utility player.
“She’ll have a bigger role, probably in the middle,” Arnold said. “She’s got some height and could be a blocker for us.”
Senior Samantha Heinrichs (5-8) and juniors Kassidi Luthi (5-11) and Tiffany Rooker (5-7) will be filling in as needed on the front line.
Sharing responsibilities at setter this season will be senior Bobbi Jo Carlson (5-4), who was second in assists in 2006 with 120, and newcomer Candace Weinbrenner (5-2), a sophomore.
“They’re both quick and Jo’s a good leader right now on the court,” Arnold said. “Candace will develop that; she’s got to get in there and get used to it.”
Arnold said she expects to play a lot of athletes this season. In fact, at this point she doesn’t see any one player staying in through the whole rotation from front row to back row.
“We have a lot of girls coming back who have played varsity, so the experience is good,” she said. “Somebody, obviously, will have to pick up the offensive load, but I think we have some girls that can do that.”
Despite a wealth of experienced players, Arnold said developing new chemistry may take some time.
“We may take a few lumps early, I don’t know—we’ll just have to see,” she said. “As long as we’re playing well at the end of the year, and improve to get there, so be it. We have to have a little bit of patience—which I don’t always have. But I think it will come.”
A couple of policy changes will affect the Trojans’ schedule this season.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association has changed its regular-season playing limit from a 10-point system (referring to the sum of Tuesday and Saturday play dates), to a 36-point system that assigns one point for a dual match, two for a triangular, three for a quadrangular and five for a tournament.
The upshot of the change is that athletes will have more opportunity to see court time, Arnold said, because it results in one additional play date.
Related to that, the Mid-Central Activities Association is moving from a schedule of dual matches against teams within the same division, to triangulars or quadrangulars where participating schools will play two different teams on the same night.
That will mean each MCAA team encounters each school in the league at some point during the season, and each encounter will be a league contest. Teams will compete as a single league instead of two divisions.
Arnold said she thinks she will like both changes.
When it comes to the league race, Arnold sees Hoisington as the preseason favorite with Smoky Valley, Hesston and her own Trojans in the mix for a high finish.
“I really think we can surprise some people,” she said. “I think a lot of people are saying, ‘Chisholm and Frick are gone; they’ve got to have a down year.’ But we’ll see.
“I’ve been pleased with the way they’ve worked, for the most part, working together as a team and knowing they each have roles on the team.”
Arnold said the MCAA preseason tournament is always “an eye-opener” in regard to who the league contenders will be.
On Saturday in Ellinwood, Hillsboro placed third with a 4-1 mark. Hesston won the title with a victory over Hoisington in the championship match.
This week, the Trojans were scheduled to compete in a quadrangular on Tuesday (Aug. 28) at Claflin. In addition to HHS and the host school, Goessel and Lyons were expected to participate.