Lady Tiger volleyball ready to improve in 2022

LUSK – With just two players from last season graduated, seniors Evelyn DesEnfants, Lily Krueger and Larkin Williams are excited for this season’s possibilities. Niobrara County High School relied on several freshmen and sophomores a year ago, and now with a year of varsity experience are juniors and sophs.

“I think a lot of us are growing as individuals, but we’re excited to grow as a team,” said Williams. “We learn so much more than just volleyball skills.”

Coach Sandra Johnson enters her eighth year, while Cora Fitzgerald is in her third year as an assistant. Last season they were forced to put younger players in varsity spots, but those players have matured.

“Our seniors and juniors have done a great job of bringing the new girls into the program,” Johnson said. “Larkin will probably settle into the libero spot, while Evelyn will be one of our setters.”

Krueger is a two-time all-conference player and the one with the most varsity experience. A year ago, she was thrust into the leader role by default but is much more at ease this season.

“I’m comfortable saying that it has gotten easier and we’re bringing everyone along together,” Krueger said. “I think by regionals we’ll be ready to do very well.”

Juniors Phoebe Allbright, Hattie Nelson and Melody ZumBrunnen saw plenty of court time and will be expected to step into leadership roles. Carolyse McCully provides depth and a serving threat off the bench.

“Phoebe and Mel have starting experience, and Hattie has come a long way,” Johnson added. “She went to a few camps in Texas this summer, and will likely be our second setter on the floor.”

The sophomore class has Paige Potter and Gracie ZumBrunnen returning with varsity experience, while Jaylah Cummins, Tessa Manning and Kyra Willey could also see varsity time this fall. Johnson has four freshmen and four newcomers to the program, two of which have varsity experience from Sioux County, Neb. last season. Rachel Krein is a junior while Hannah is a sophomore, and both bring height and athleticism to the team.

“They went to the Chadron camp with us,” Johnson noted. “Hannah will help us on the net, and I think with Rachel, we’ll be able to put her in a variety of positions.”

Knowing that their firsts are dwindling down to their lasts, the seniors want to play their best volleyball in late October. 

“We have a fun, energetic group, and I think we’ll learn and grow together,” DesEnfants said.

Johnson and the seniors agreed that Burns would be an unknown after four years in 3A, but the 2A East will be just as competitive as usual. The 2A East Regional tournament will be in Cheyenne on Oct. 27-29.