Going into her third season at the helm, Niki Baughman is noticing a shift in the Collinsville volleyball program.
“I feel like we all have the same mentality,” Baughman said. “These are the girls that came in when I did. So they know what the standard is.”
Baughman hopes that familiarity, along with a load of returning experience and a shift in scheduling will push the Cardinals to new heights in 2019.
Leading the Collinsville charge will be senior outside hitter Jacy Rule. One of the top 400-meter runners in Class 5A, Rule is a three-time All-Metro Lakes Conference selection on the court.
“The girl knows how to compete,” Baughman said of Rule. “She doesn’t get rattled. She’s a good leader.”
Rule is one of just two seniors on the roster along with defensive specialist Melody Trost, who returns to the team after missing a year.
The Cardinals will be sparked by a junior class that includes all-conference honorees in middle hitter Paris Hamilton, right side hitter and setter Kamryn Stogsdill. Gentry Weiser will shift from setter to libero, a move that figures to help bolster the back row.
Left side hitter Lexi Green is a breakout candidate. Green, a junior, returns from a torn ACL that kept her out of nearly all of last season.
Other key components figure to be junior right side hitter Hanna Gallemore as well as sophomores Lexi Gregory (middle hitter), Kate Tuttle (setter), Sydnie Helm (defensive specialist) and Makiah Bays (defensive specialist). Freshmen Makenzie Hadley, Makayla Meadows and McKenzie Weygand could each suit up for varsity on occasion.
Collinsville opens its varsity season Monday when it hosts Oologah at 6 p.m. The regular season schedule includes just one Class 6A opponent, Muskogee, and figures to give the Cardinals the chance to build some momentum.
Baughman also made a couple of moves with her coaching assistants in the offseason. Jennifer Christian will take over one assistant’s spot. Maria Palmer, a former Dewey head coach, is a new addition on the varsity staff as well.
Baughman said one of the keys for the upcoming season will be her team’s ability to maintain a strong chemistry on the court.
“Volleyball is the ultimate team sport,” she said. “I want them to play organically. I want them to play unselfishly.”