A weekly question-and-answer session during the summer with an area high school coach.
You had eight seniors in 2009, who do you have coming back from that team?
"I have six seniors — Morgan Thome and Sarah Balderas as setters, Chloe Nicholas, Bailey Fischer, Haley Urban and Cara Detmer is back as our libero. Haley and Bailey did start some at outside hitter. All were part-time starters.
"Sarah suited up varsity for us and was a setter, but we had her play some (junior varsity) last year and made her hit and she has done a good job hitting the ball. She plays basketball, and her arm span is huge. I think she's 5-7, 5-8, but she has a good vertical and she has an amazing arm reach and swing.
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"We kept her down (on JV) to work on her hitting, and she's a good hitter. She's probably one of the best three-sport athletes we've had for a long time.
"... We had Morgan work on her hitting, too. They're both good setters, and they both stayed down and worked. Morgan suited up some varsity, too."
You're going back to running the 6-2 offense after running the 5-1 with Emmie Rech at setter — which offense do you prefer?
"Running a 6-2, we'll be able to have more hitters. We'll have good setters, too. Emmie was a very good setter and did a nice job in the 5-1, but our weakness was when she was in the front row. She said she was (5-foot-3), but she might have been 5-2, 5-foot.
"... We'll have to take a look at Morgan and Sarah hitting. Sarah will play all the way around. Morgan will be, that if someone is struggling, we can leave her in. We work with all our players to set, but if I had a right-side hitter that can set, that's a big advantage. If we're out of system, and our regular setter is taking the first ball, the right-side person in a 6-2 is the secondary setter."
How about your other seniors?
"Chloe and Haley have been on varsity since their sophomore years. Haley had a back injury last year at the end of the season, and she's just coming back from it. She was a sprinter in track, and she made it to state in some relays.
"Chloe, she can run middle or outside. She's probably one of our best passers after Cara.
"Cara is so athletic.... She was a Level 9 gymnast, so her flexibility and her ability to get to balls, she's just so agile that it's a huge advantage for us.
"... Bailey was an outside hitter last year, and she just has a lot of power. Defensively, they are a talented group."
Even though you graduated all those seniors, you still have experience returning, how did you do that?
"When we played the three out of five games, we had chances.... We rotated a lot of kids in games, where they were starting and playing a lot. Even though we had a 5-1 (offense), we had a lot of hitters. If they were not strong enough passers, others passed. In the second and third game, they were subbing in as hitters.
"That's the only way I feel that we can survive. We have such big numbers in classes and we need to give them playing time. They work and they earn their spots, and they do a good job.
"This senior group, I'm really excited. They have a lot of passion to win, and they get along real well. They're focused, you can see that, with all six of them. They want it and they want to make sure the younger ones do, too."
Are there younger players you will look to?
"We'll have two middles stepping up right away in (sophomore) Meghan Dugan and (junior) Jana Reichenberger.
"Meghan went to grade school at St. Elizabeth... and decided to go to Valley Center. She went a semester there... and transferred at Christmas, so she's eligible.
"I'm excited for her. She's played a lot. She got a year of varsity experience and they were a good team. She kind of understands the pressure of playing already. She's a good blocker and a good talker. She's really mature for a sophomore as a player."
Carroll hasn't played in the Class 5A championship match or finished better than fourth since winning in 2001, is that frustrating?
"It's hard. I think a lot of it is the Kansas City schools are so strong and big. We might have one or two big girls, and then we try to compete. St. Thomas Aquinas and Miege, a lot of their kids are over 6-foot. Last year we had Nicole Walden, our big hitter. She was 5-9.
"I know that size doesn't always beat speed, but I think it helps to have a few people that can match up against their hitters.
"Defensively, we know we have to get better. We can't do anything about our size, so we definitely have to get smarter and better on how we handle our defense.... (The Kansas City-area teams) are loaded and they're strong all the way around, and they seem to play a quicker game than we do around here."
How do you feel about the City League this year?
"We're going to have to work hard. It's more balanced. We're going to have to earn every match that we play. The talent in the city has gotten a lot better. I think a lot of kids play more club and they're more athletic."
How was your team camp?
"We only had 24 kids from sophomores to seniors. That's kind of low for us, but it was kind of nice, too.... You're not worried about making sure everyone gets enough attention; you can help kids more. You kind of see what you're going to have.
"The cuts are the worst. That's the worst thing we deal with. It's not uncommon to have 35 kids from sophomores through seniors, and the stress of making the cuts... It probably tears me up most."