Southwest volleyball opens season Thursday
Lady Trojans aim to stay on top of Ozark 7 Conference
For the last three seasons, there has been no better volleyball team in the Ozark 7 Conference than Southwest.
For 13 years, Lady Trojans Coach Steve Voyak has quietly built a force to be dealt with in Washburn, and he hopes to continue down that path this season.
However, he will do so without the bonus of graduate seniors Shannon Mitchell, who had 1,200 career kills and was two-time all-state and a two-time Ozark 7 Player of the Year; Kayna McNabb, who had 800 digs over her final two seasons; and defensive specialists Jessica Henderson and Brittney Hackett.
Voyak knows this season will be an uphill climb.
"I would say Purdy and McAuley Catholic are co-favorites in our league," he said. "Verona and Wheaton will also be improved and could challenge for the top spot. Exeter and Thomas Jefferson are rebuilding."
However, the cupboard is far from bare at Southwest.
The Lady Trojans still have quality pieces to build with.
Jaime Shrum, a 5-4 setter, starts her senior campaign with 161 career aces, 73 of them coming last year.
"[She] could end up in the top-10 in the history of the state with a big season," Voyak said.
Shrum served at 92 percent and logged 290 assists to earn first team all-conference and all-region honors.
"Although she is a setter, Jaime plays in all six serve-receives as a passer," he said. "Our biggest change with Jaime this season is her role as a hitter. She will play three front row rotations as a hitter and has worked to improve in that area, despite being only 5-4. Our goal is for the ball to touch her hands as much as possible."
Returning along with Shrum are seniors Savana Leonhardt and Karla Catron, along with juniors Brianna Learned (5-5), Sydney Delossantos (5-5), Sydney Leroy (5-0) and Rebekah McKeever (5-5). Leonhardt had 54 kills, 179 assists, and 100 digs in 2014, while Catron added 44 aces, 60 kills and 25 blocks.
"Savana has really worked diligently to improve her jumping, hitting and serving," Voyak said. "Karla has moved from right side to middle for her senior year. She has been on the varsity since her sophomore season. She has worked to improve her hitting and jumping."
Senior Baylea Ford has been a member of the junior varsity team, but has earned a spot on the varsity as a defensive specialist.
She has improved her platform and quickness as a middle in the back row, Voyak said.
Top newcomers include sophomore Myka Cook (5-10) and freshman Maggie Robbins (5-5).
Voyak, will be joined on the bench by first-year assistant Emily Thurman.
Southwest opens the season on the road on Thursday at Pea Ridge, Ark. Its home opener is Sept. 1 against Marionville.