North Platte struggled through a difficult season but perhaps for good reason.
Coming off a record run of performance, the Panthers were forced to reconstruct the entire roster. Lauren Payne, the lone senior, served as setter in 2016 — the only player on the roster who had previous varsity experience.
North Platte opened with six straight losses, and finished 4-24-1 with two wins over St. Joseph Christian and just one in KCI Conference play (against Hamilton). In the previous three seasons, the Panthers won the league tournament and regular season titles two times each.
“Nothing went wrong (last year),” North Platte coach Scott McInnis said. “We started as you would expect a young team to start and we continually improved throughout the season. Each player improved and learned a lot about what it takes to compete at the varsity level.”
While needing to find a replacement for Payne, McInnis expects junior Kelsey Reynolds and sophomore McKenzie Brockhoff to be back to lead the offense. Frankie Davis, a sophomore, gained valuable early experience as a freshman forced to contribute right away.
Last season, McInnis used four freshmen, one sophomore and two juniors at the varsity level. Katie Sanders and Hayleigh Moore will be the lone seniors this season. McInnis believes the incoming freshmen again have talent with a chance to push for time on the court.
“We’re planning to take what we learned last season and expand on it while adding some depth to our roster and improving in positions where we struggled,” McInnis said. “Everyone has elevated their game as well as their expectations, and we’re all looking forward to another chance to get on the court and compete.”