High School Sports

Maize South volleyball hopes to keep ascending

Maize South's Hannah Jennings and Kelsey Sterneker were both out of their element last volleyball season, learning new skills as varsity starters.

Jennings, then a junior, moved to setter, a position she found mentally draining. Sterneker, then a freshman, played middle hitter.

Despite their new roles, they helped Maize South get to the Class 4A tournament in the school's second year.

Jennings and Sterneker are back, better than they were in 2010 and confident.

They are part of the reason coach Teri Larson has said her team is better now than when it finished the 2010 season. And that creates a challenge for the Mavericks.

"You have to keep getting better," Larson said."... If you're clicking already, you have to keep clicking and take everyone's best shot. But the girls are excited. They're feeling real confident."

They should be. Jennings is getting interest from small colleges as a setter, something she never guessed would happen. Sterneker, a 6-foot sophomore, has gotten stronger and is more of a dominant presence.

"Hannah has improved so much," junior Jody Larson said. "Her setting is so much more accurate.... And Kelsey, she's improved. She's jumping higher and hitting harder and her blocking has improved a ton."

Larson is a crucial part of this team, too. An All-Metro selection as a sophomore, Larson (6-1) has offers from Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conference schools. She has become stronger and increased her vertical leap by seven inches.

Maize South relied heavily on her the past two seasons, which allowed other teams to focus their defensive efforts squarely on her.

That won't be such a common occurrence.

"Everybody knew in the gym that Jody was going to get the ball," Teri Larson said of her daughter. "She handled that really well.... Now it's, 'Can I share the ball more than I have done in the past?' She'll have to handle that."

In addition to Jody Larson, Sterneker and Jennings, who also is a hitter, Maize South has consistent and talented hitters in senior middle Mackenzie Obermeyer and senior outside Kelsey Pracht.

Combine improved blocking with top-notch passing courtesy of junior libero McKenna Poynter and sophomore defensive specialist Macy Allred, and Maize South appears to have all the necessary components for a state-bound team.

But it won't be that easy. The Mavericks schedule includes the Maize, Heights and Derby tournaments — all Class 6A schools — as well as tough Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division IV foes, specifically Circle and Collegiate.

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