The Baker Orange

2014 Volleyball Preview

Story by Jim Joyner, Sports Editor

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2013 was a great season for Baker volleyball and head coach Kathy Allen. The Wildcats finished with an overall record of 23-9 and a conference record of 7-2 with their losses coming at Evangel and against MidAmerica Nazarene at home, where Baker led 2-0 and ended up losing the final three sets in dramatic fashion.

In the 2013 Heart of America Athletic Conference tournament, the Wildcats entered as the three seed and beat Peru State 3-0 at home, beat Evangel 3-2 at Evangel, and lost at Mid America Nazarene 3-1 in front of a large crowd. This year the ‘Cats come in just outside the Top 25 and look to push their way through the rankings and the conference.

The Wildcats start the season with four different tournaments early on. Coach Kathy Allen uses these tournaments to evaluate her roster as well as play around with different line ups for the conference season.

“Our goal is to see where we’re at early on in the season,” Allen said. “To see what we need to work on, what our strengths are, and what are weaknesses are.”

RETURNERS

Baker returns a lot of strength in 2014. Sophomore setter Hannah Bettge, the HAAC Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference player, will be back. Bettge led the team with 1,067 assists as well as 25 aces. Even as a sophomore, Bettge has a role on the team larger than just her performance on the court.

“Hannah has always been a leader,” Allen said.

Junior middle-hitter Danielle French, a HAAC second-team selection, will also be an important player for the 2014 team. French was first on the team in blocks with 139 and second in kills with 278.

Also returning for the Wildcats is senior libero Sara Slater. Slater finished second on the team in digs with 319.

“She’s so deceptive and makes it look so easy,” Allen said.

Junior Kaysha Green also returns after playing in all 113 games in 2013.

Two other middle hitters return as well. Senior Shannon McCarty, who was fourth on the team in kills and had the best serve percentage, could play a key role along with junior Shannon Bond.

Allen thought that Bond stood out the most in their opening tournament at Oklahoma Baptist.

“Of all our hitters Shannon Bond was the king of the hill,” Allen said. “She stood out from an attacking standpoint.”

Seniors McCarty, Slater, Taryn Brees and Kylie Pease look to be the backbone of this team with their experience.

DEPARTURES

Baker will lose first-team All HAAC libero Renata Dill, who led the team in digs with 556 and had a 90-percent serve percentage over her four seasons as a Wildcat.

The ‘Cats are feeling another sting in the back row after defensive specialist Sam Landgrebe bid her farewell upon being accepted into the Kansas University School of Pharmacy. Landgrebe was fourth in digs with 206 last season.

The 2014 Wildcats will also be without two, second-team all conference performers: Jasmyn Turner and Crystal Simon. The two combined for 550 kills in 2013 and dominated the top of the net throughout their Baker careers.

OUTLOOK

A successful season for volleyball would be a season similar to the 2013 campaign. Finishing in the top three of the conference regular season would put the Wildcats in a position to make a run in the HAAC tournament.

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