The expectations remain the same, and the ability to make a deep postseason run might have actually increased.
Coming off one of the best regular seasons in program history, Park Hill South returns all of its starters and nearly all of its contributors. The Panthers went 29-6 last season and won the Suburban Conference Red Division before the year ended with a crushing loss in the Class 5 District 15 championship.
Park Hill South won’t shy away from its potential, especially with the top seven attackers and blockers and top five defensive players back.
“This team has the tools to be a state-level team this year, but we want to make sure we take care of the task ahead instead of looking past the steps to get there,” Park Hill South coach Karen McConnell said. “With everyone returning, we want to win conference and districts before we set the next goal.”
Andi Elley, a senior, leads the returners after posting an all-state season as a junior. She led Park Hill South in kills (291) and ranked second in digs (288).
The attack also features senior Bri Bartosh — third in kills (198), first in aces (61) and third in blocks (16) — and 6-foot-3 junior Annika Welty, who broke out as a sophomore and ranked second in kills (228) and first in blocks (28) in the middle of the Panthers’ offense and defense.
In addition, senior setter Allison Sadler returns after being pressed into full-time service last year after an early season injury to Alex Rothers, one of two graduated seniors. Sadler earned multiple postseason honors after posting 622 assists in addition to ranking in the top five for Park Hill South in kills, blocks, aces and digs.
Sydney Stewart (team-high 289 digs) and Emily Day (149 digs) — both seniors — provide the experience on defense.
In addition to the main returners, McConnell expects senior Sarah Knight (36 kills), junior Maddie Murphy (25 kills) and sophomore Kacy Lewallen (17 kills) to provide depth to the offense after limited varsity exposure last year. Michelle Dvorak, another sophomore, didn’t play varsity last year but will have the chance to rotate into the middle in addition to providing service and passing.