At the start of a season, everyone usually sets team goals. Some don’t even need to be written on and posted on a locker room wall.
Just ask the Carl Junction volleyball team. A year ago, the Bulldogs finished 24-11, ending the season with a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Central Ozark Conference rival Webb City. Suddenly, Carl Junction’s hope of repeating as district champion faded.
The Bulldogs don’t need team goals to be motivated for this fall season.
“They were very disappointed with this loss,” said Carl Junction coach Cheryl Sharples. “It kept them motivated and motivated the whole offseason. We are extremely excited to be back on the volleyball court. We have been looking forward to coming back there since the end of last season.
“We will have a successful season provided everyone stays healthy. We have a great mix of experience and strong newcomers.
Carl Junction troopers this season with six men of letters, five returning starters and a slew of newcomers set to burst onto the college scene.
The Bulldogs graduated three seniors from last year, headlined by outside hitter Jessa Hylton. The 2020 star, who suffered a torn ACL mid-season last year, has racked up 922 wins over his four-year career.
Olivia Vediz (libero) and Maggie Brown (midfielder) also graduated for Carl Junction.
As the curtain rises on this fall, the Bulldogs have a strong core of returning players in the fold. It starts with the commitment and Arkansas passer Logan Jones, who filled the stat sheet last year with 1,003 assists, 231 digs, 132 kills, 61 aces and 30 blocks.
Jones became an all-state player twice after the season. Sharples is excited to see what Jones can accomplish as a senior.
“Lo led our offense for three years,” Sharples said. “Obviously it’s great to have her back for her senior season. She’s done such great things for us. We expect even more from her this year.
A trio of talented hitters also return in senior Destiny Buerge, junior Kylie Scott and sophomore Karissa Chase. Buerge had 317 kills, 283 digs and 26 aces last year, while Scott had 239 kills with 57 blocks and 25 aces.
A right-sided hitter, Chase recorded 139 kills with 23 blocks as a rookie.
“We have three pretty experienced hitters in Destiny, Kylie and Karissa,” Sharples said. “We will be looking for those three to take a lot of swings for us. We turn to them in unavoidable situations.
Rounding out the returning starters is junior middle hitter Aubreigh Fowler, while senior outside hitter Chloe Taylor returns with significant college experience.
Newcomers to Carl Junction include seniors Jocelyn Brown (defensive specialist/passer), Adia Kennedy (middle hitter) as well as juniors Sara Buchele (hitter/defensive specialist), Abigail Wilson (defensive specialist) and second Jocelyn Wengert (specialist defensive).
“Jocelyn Brown has a bit of college experience in situations,” Sharples said. “She didn’t play a ton, but she played a little. She is very quick in defense. We are looking for her to fill this position of libero (in place of Vediz).
Sharples said his team had a chance to be versatile offensively.
“We have solid ball control. Our setter executes a quick and effective attack,” said Sharples. “We have multiple batting options to put the ball away. But our inexperienced players will have to take effect quickly. We need them to get a lot of hits in every skill so we can grow as a team.
Carl Junction opens the season at home against Kickapoo at 7 p.m. on August 30.
“I think we have an opportunity to succeed,” Sharples said. “First and foremost, we want to go out and compete every night. If we do that and worry about how the game is going, the results will take care of themselves.