After completing a 19-11-1 campaign in 2006 and finishing second to Farmington in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament, the Lady Bulldogs return a talented core of athletes that have varsity-level experience.
"I'm excited about this season and the possibilities it could bring," said Sikeston head coach Steve Beydler, who last season guided the Lady Bulldogs to their best record since the 2000 campaign (23-7).
Seniors Rachel Beydler and Martika Davis are back after being named to the Class 4, District 1 All-Tournament team. At setter, Beydler led Sikeston with 486 assists and service aces with 47. She was second on the Lady Bulldogs' list in digs (182), kill percentage (.269) and serving percentage (93.0).
Although she platooned between outside hitter and middle blocker, Davis had team-highs in kills (209) and kill percentage (.299). Her total of solo blocks (37) was Sikeston's second highest amount last season.
Davis agreed with teammate Beydler that the Lady Bulldogs are ready to begin the 2007 season.
"A few of us played club volleyball and all of us played in summer league in Cape Girardeau," Davis said. "I think it helped learn even more about each other and come together as players on the court."
Sikeston is searching for a replacement for outside hitter Quinn Kaiser, who graduated in 2006 after topping the Lady Bulldogs with 241 digs and a 93.4 percent average in serving. She added 142 kills to place second for Sikeston and was also selected to the Class 4, District 1 All-Tournament team.
Emily Taylor, an outside hitter and back-row defender, and Kiarra Morris, a back-row defender and server, are also gone due to graduation.
Senior Caitlyn Underwood (middle blocker) returns after being a second team All-Southeast Missouri Conference in 2006. At the varsity level, she has 147 kills, 81 blocks and .207 kill percentage during her tenure. Coach Beydler said he has enjoyed watching the progress Underwood has made each year she has been in the prep program.
Senior Jennifer Millington (outside hitter), who played volleyball for the first time in 2006, made 130 digs last season and returns for the 2007 campaign.
Senior Destinee Walker, who has been coached by Beydler since her days in junior high, has been penciled in as an outside hitter. Coach Beydler described her as a powerful hitter who must learn to control the accuracy and the consistency of her hits.
Senior Ali Harper, primarily used a defensive specialist, has sharp serve and, according to coach Beydler, add some front-row capabilities. "She's really consistent with keeping the ball in play," he said.
Juniors Mandy Moore (setter), Andrea Coleman (defensive specialist) are also vying for time in Sikeston's lineup.
"Coming into the season, I was wondering: 'Who is going to step up, who is going fill these roles for us,'" Steve Beydler said. "I am looking for players who will give us consistency in hitting, consistency in passing and consistency in everything. And the girls know that."
Coach Beydler has a lineup that he has put down in pencil, but the consistency of players will ultimately determine the Sikeston rotation.
"When I have to make tough decisions because I have so many girls who could fill different roles, it's a good thing, but a tough situation to be in," said coach Beydler as he described the versatility of his players.
Perennial-power Farmington and Sikeston, with its class of six seniors, are two teams who could be headed for a late rematch at the district tournament level.