(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Hoping to build off their solid play toward the end of last year after a rough start, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs volleyball team has high hopes as they prepare for the upcoming season.
"I think we're going to have a very positive season this year," senior Mary Eifert said. "Definitely better than the last couple of seasons. We worked really hard this summer and I think we can take a couple of teams that we have had trouble with in the past."
Playing several freshman and sophomores on the varsity squad, the Lady Bulldogs did a lot of growing up this past season. After starting out on an 0-14 slide, the girls were able to pull things to together to finish the season with seven wins and the SEMO Conference championship.
"That was a pretty big thing for us," junior Asia Liggins said. "We didn't think we could pull it off, but we did. We actually finished and that was a big problem we had earlier (in the year), finishing games."
And though this year's squad will still be young, with only three seniors on the roster, senior Halley Loflin sees a big difference between in her team from last season.
"We were just really inexperienced (last year) and nobody really understood what they were doing," she said. "This year we have a lot more young players that have played varsity so it will be easier for them to get to know what we're doing."
Entering the new season, one of the more obvious goals most the girls said they set for themselves is advancing deeper in to the post season. Though they were able to take the conference title by winning two-straight sets over New Madrid County Central, their season would come to a close in the first round of the Class 4, District 1 Tournament.
That loss would come at the hands of the Cape Central Lady Tigers in two straights sets 25-21, 25-19.
Lady Bulldogs head coach Steve Beydler hope the hard work his girls have put in this summer will keep that from happening again.
"The inexperience we had last year being really young is not going to be as much of a problem this year because we had a really good summer," he said. "We had a lot of girls that dedicated time in to practice, played in the summer league in Cape and then went to some camps and did some stuff.
"I think that the dedication in the summer that we had is going to pay off a whole lot in the long run."
The Lady Bulldogs will get their chance to start out on a high note when they open their season on the road against the Bernie Lady Mules Aug. 31 at 6 p.m.
"Bernie's always tough," Beydeler said. "They're a tough serving team and they're always scrappy. It's hard to get a ball down on the court against them. One of the things we know we have to do is we know we have to control the ball, we can't let them control it.
"Against a team like that, they're going to get the ball up and back at you real quick and if you can't control it when you do have a chance then you're not going to have much of a chance to win."
After losing to the Mules to start last season, senior Vonteria Applewhite likes her team's chances of evening the score.
"I think we're going to win if we just get our heads in the game and not pull ourselves down," she said. "If everybody plays their part I think we'll win."