Coming off a disappointing end to a stellar start to the 2021 season, the St. Paul volleyball team enters the new year with fire in their step. With most of the squad returning to the hardwood this fall, the Indians are ready to hit the ground running when practices start in just over a week.
“When we got to the postseason, the girls were ready for the opportunity. It was just a hard day against Burlingame,” St. Paul head coach Mark Haight said of his team’s 2021 finish. “With that said, the girls’ attitudes are already good for this next season.”
After opening the 2021 campaign with 17 straight wins, St. Paul lost a heart-breaking match to the Burlingame Bearcats in the sub-state finals, ending their run.
The Indians’ notable loss coming into this year, is the recent graduation of middle blocker Elise Doherty. The All-Three Rivers League unanimous selection had a team-leading 227 kills, 102 blocks and 64 digs in her senior campaign.
“It's tough losing a leader,” Haight said. “And with Elise leaving, there’s a lot of offense I've lost that I've got to make up for.”
Thankfully, Haight has plenty of talent left on the roster to turn to. The Indians return a trio of All-TRL honorees in seniors Josey Harris, Sophia Albertini and Kenna Doherty. Harris averaged 2.6 kills per set, Albertini had 1.5, and Kenna Doherty provided over 600 assists last season.
Though the three returning all-league players pitched in for plenty of offense last year, the set-and-hit style offense the Indians ran will not be an option anymore.
“I don't know if we will beat the power team that we were last year, because I've got a lot of offense to try to make up,” Haight said. “I think looking at this summer, a lot more finesse is going to have to go into this season instead of just getting the ball passed, set, and then attacking.”
With the burden of scoring shifting to other members of the squad, the focus for Haight heading into the season will be getting the rest of his girls game-ready. Drills and technique will take precedence over scrimmages in the early portion of the season.
“Pretty much the focus will be on Josie, Sophia, Chloe (Seme) and my sophomore Jorja (Harris),” Haight said. “There's going to be a big focus on basically getting those girls swinging well.”
Seniors Gennie Vitt, Ava Chambers and Maggie Winter are expected to round-out the varsity roster, all returning starters from last season.
The team spent the off-season preparing for the fall as much as possible. From weight-lifting to weekly volleyball workouts, from playing in the Frontenac league to a tournament in Jayhawk-Linn, the Indians were eager to get back to work.
While a number of incoming freshman and sophomores have caught his eye, Haight has decided to relegate those players to the junior varsity in order to develop them for future seasons.
“Here’s the thing, I've got seven seniors and one sophomore,” Haight said. “When they graduate, I've got to make sure that these other nine girls got a lot of opportunities, a lot of playing time. We’ll send them to some tournaments with some good competition and all that will hopefully better their game.”
The team’s goals remain the same as they were a year ago; win another Three Rivers League Title and secure a berth in the state tournament.
The Indian volleyball team kicks off their season in Jayhawk-Linn on August 27. The team returns to St. Paul for the home opener on August 6, hosting Pleasanton, Liberal and Southern Coffey County.
8/27 @ Jayhawk-Linn
9/1 @ Galena
9/13 @ Southeast
9/17 @ Oswego
9/20 @ Uniontown
9/24 @ West Franklin
10/1 @ Chanute