LUSK – After a taste of the 2A State Tournament as freshmen, the Niobrara County High School volleyball seniors have a very specific plan for this year.
When asked about what it would take for a return to Casper, Danni Larson quipped “probably a bus.”
All six of them have been together since sixth grade and enjoyed a laugh as their final season begins.
They won’t need a bus much, as most of this season will take place at Tiger Gym with the revised schedule including 13 home matches and just six road trips. “Thirteen, we have 13 home games, that’s a lot,” beamed Anna Richardson.
Sandra Johnson enters her sixth season as head coach and has Andie Hubbard back on the sidelines for a second season.
“The seniors do have a lot of varsity experience, a lot of athletic talent, and when you have the numbers and talent to go together,” said Johnson. “You tend to get a pretty good team.”
Courtney Rowley and Richardson were all-conference selections last fall and are back with Riley Shaw, Renae Marker, Bryn Bruch and Larson and look to improve on last year’s 4-25 record.
“A winning record and recovery season,” noted Shaw.
“Cooperation and teamwork together, it’s going to take all of us,” said Marker.
Rowley, Richardson and Larson will be hitters, while Marker will be counted on in the middle. Bruch is coming off of shoulder surgery and should help Shaw in the setting department.
“We just need Bryn to heal up from the shoulder surgery, and she’s being pretty careful right now,” added Johnson. “But if we get her back healthy, a 6-2 will give us six good hitters all the time.”
Bruch expects to be cleared to play by mid-September.
Juniors Jaden Stauffer, Adele DesEnfants and sophomores Evelyn DesEnfants and Lily Krueger will also fit into the rotation.
“Except for Evelyn, most of them didn’t play much with us last year,” Rowley said.
Bruch added, “The coaches are looking for someone that will fit in with our group.”
Sundance is the defending state champion and has plenty of talent to be considered the favorite while Moorcroft was mentioned as a potential contender. Pine Bluffs and Glenrock lost several veteran players to graduation but will still be competitive.
“The girls want to qualify for state, and I certainly think it’s possible,” Johnson said. “They’ve played at the Events Center and they’ve been on the big stage, so they shouldn’t be scared at this point.”
The Lady Tigers open the season Friday as Sundance with games starting at 10 a.m. and Moorcroft with first serve at 2 p.m.
With a revamped 2A regional tournament and Southeast dropping to 1A, the Lady Tigers will be no less than a three seed, as the number five team from the Northeast will be inserted as the fourth seed in the Southeast Quad. Two teams from each region will qualify for the 2A State Tournament, scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Casper Events Center.