Sikeston coach Steve Beydler refrains from using the term "rebuilding," but admits his team is "young."
A varsity contingent of three seniors, three juniors and three sophomores will attempt to step into the roles vacated by two-time all-conference, all-district outside hitter Rachael Vining, outside hitter Paige Kaiser and setter and floor leader Erin Box. In addition, utility player Mallory Whiffen was also a graduation casualty.
Vining, a two-sport standout -- volleyball and track -- continues her career at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley on an athletic scholarship.
Two of the three seniors are returning starters.
Senior Berneatress Hunt, an all-conference middle hitter, will contribute on the defensive side with her blocking ability and, offensively, in the kill category.
Senior outside hitter Audra Wooley will be called upon to provide offensive power as well as defensive stability.
In a search for someone to fill the all-important position of setter, Beydler has settled on sophomore Quinn Kaiser, who has some varsity experience, but not at that position.
Said Beydler, "I had to decide who could potentially play the position from an athletic and skills point of view and then decide who could learn the position in a short period of time. Quinn has been a real trooper to step up and be willing to do what is best for the team. I'm confident she will work out nicely after she gets some games under her belt."
A third senior, Lateisa Peet, is returning after a 1 1/2-year absence. Beydler said the more mature Peet could help the team in a couple of possible positions once she gets back into the swing of things.
Moving up from the junior varsity are juniors Khassie Patterson and Amber Anthony, both of whom can provide offensive and defensive help. Junior transfer Ashley Clouse will also figure into the varsity mix.
Sophomores Kiarra Morris and Emily Taylor are talented, although young and inexperienced.
"Each of these junior and sophomore players can step in for me at any given time and do what I ask of them," said Beydler.
A clear positive in preseason has been the mental maturity of the Lady Bulldogs.
"This team gets along well together and, up to this point, is void of some of the petty problems that can eat away at a team," said Beydler.
The coach expects the Lady Bulldogs to be competitive in the SEMO Conference and compile a decent overall record.
"We'll win some games because of will and desire and we'll lose some from inexperience," he said. "Heck, if we finish above .500, it would be great."
The junior varsity is an all-freshmen unit which has enjoyed success at the junior high level.
JV players are: setters Rachel Beydler and Kelsey Lawrence; middle hitters Martika Davis and Caitlin Underwood; outside hitters Destinee Walker and Amber Minner; and defensive players Megan Underhill, Gina Davis and Ali Harper.
"What they lack in age, they make up for in ability," said Beydler, emphasizing a sound grasp of fundamentals for such a young club. "I look for good things in the future from this group."