Last season, the Prairie City-Monroe volleyball team was stacked with upperclassmen, but the Mustangs limped away with an 8-18 record.
This year, there is a new sheriff in town in head coach Mollie Keitges, and with the help of a couple of senior leaders, she intends to change that in a hurry.
“We’re going to be doing things a little bit differently. We have a couple senior leaders that we need to step up in Lexi Kain and Abbi Gilson. They will be our big hitters,” Keitges said of this year’s squad. “Mostly, right now we’re looking to work on the basics and the fundamentals of the game.”
Although the starting lineup for the Mustangs will lose graduating seniors Alex Samson, Kelsey Townsend, Kaitlyn Wilkie and Payge Edwards, there are several more than capable girls who appear ready to step up.
Abbi Gilson will lead this year’s squad. Arguably the Mustangs’ greatest asset on the court last season, Gilson led the team in kills (136), sets (76), kills per set (1.79) and aces (54). Now a senior, Gilson will need to be the leader on and off the court to make some of the girls who played sparingly last year feel more comfortable in this year’s starting lineup.
Assisting her in the leadership role will be seniors Lexi Kain, Cassidy VanVeen, Megan Winager, Taylor Davenport and Ashlee Kain. Of those seniors, Lexi and Taylor were the only ones who saw significant playing time in 2012.
“Abbi and Lexi are both great athletes,” Keitges said. “They work hard, and we need them to be our leaders. Abbi will play more up-front and in the middle, and we’re going to rely on Lexi to put some pressure on from the back line.”
Courtney VanHouweling was very effective as a sophomore, contributing 60 kills and 20 aces. Look for her to have an increased role in the Mustangs’ attacking plays.
“My biggest hope for the girls is just to improve. I understand it takes some time to adjust to a new way of doing things, and I’m going to change things up from the way they’ve done things in the past. It’s going to be a new style of play for them. If we improve with every meet, I’ll be happy with them,” Keitges said.
The Mustangs’ season will begin on Aug. 27 with a tournament at Dallas Center-Grimes High School.