By Chris Parker
Pierce City volleyball won 22 matches last year. It marked the third consecutive year with at least 16 wins for Pierce City.
The Eagles will look to make it that a fourth straight year with a strong group returning that features five seniors that played in at least 80 sets last year as juniors.
Senior Hailey Gripka leads the returning players. She earned first-team all-conference honors last year after she led the team with 268 kills.
“Hailey is an amazing athlete with incomparable drive. She works hard all year long and never stops trying to improve. She’s coachable, hard-working, and strong which makes her a big asset,” Pierce City head coach Amber Wilson said. “Hailey will most likely play all the way around this year. She’ll be our middle hitter and blocker in front row and play middle back on defense.”
She will be joined by a deep group of classmates including Jillian Mack (left back), Macy Fenske (defensive specialist and front row hitter), Madison Tindell (front row) and Trinity Witt (outside hitter).
Wilson on Mack: “I see potential for Jillian to be our team leader as a leading passer.”
Wilson on Fenske: “Macy is very flexible and works hard in every position.”
Wilson on Tindell: “Madi is creative with hitting and keeps the defenders on their toes.”
Wilson on Witt: “Trinity has an amazing vertical that allows her to get on top of the ball and hit aggressively.”
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The leadership of this senior group will be key for Pierce City to make a run in the post-season.
“The girls have gotten really close this summer and our seniors have been practicing great leadership skills,” Wilson said. “Having five seniors on the varsity court can be overwhelming, but they are in sync with each other and do a really good job encouraging each other. I am extremely proud of their ability to stay up even in tough situations. I can count on them to work hard individually and as a whole.”
Annie Rakoski (junior setter), Ali Debes (sophomore defensive specialist), Addison Advondet (freshman front row attacker) and Laira Jones (sophomore) are newcomers to watch.
Wilson on Rakoski: “Annie will most likely be our setter all the way around. She fights at the net and hustles to achieve perfect sets.”
Wilson on Debes: “Ali is an amazing passer for her age and can be counted on to dig up tough balls.”
Wilson on Advondet: “Addison came in pretty strong as a freshman and stood out enough to make varsity this summer. We are excited to see how she grows.”
Wilson on Jones: “Laira has potential in front and back row. We are still experimenting with rotations to see where she will fall.”
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Sophomore Lexie Jones is another player who could contribute on varsity.
Wilson will look for her team to take a more cerebral approach to the offensive attack.
“I would like to improve on strategic thinking,” Wilson said. “Rather than just attacking, I want them to think about where they want to place the ball and to read the defense. This will improve with practice and communication with back and front row.”
Pierce City will host a jamboree with Ash Grove, East Newton and Pleasant Hope on Aug. 23. The Eagles will open the regular season on Aug. 29 at East Newton.
“I expect the girls to give their all, every day, every game,” Wilson said. “In the past I’ve seen teams break down and not give their all, even when the season depended on it. With this group, I see a different outcome. I have girls who aren’t going to let a ball drop, can keep errors under control, and will work hard.”