Once the epitome of coaching stability, Platte County suddenly enters this season with the third different head coach in the past three years.
The Pirates must start over again, and perhaps fittingly, all of the contributors from their record-setting seasons in 2013 and 2014 have gone, too. A mostly inexperienced group returns after last year’s up-and-down season that included an 8-2 record in the Suburban Conference Blue Division.
“I don’t have any concerns,” said senior Hannah Kunels, one of three attackers back who received significant playing time last season. “We’ve really adjusted well to a new coach and kind of a new stage to the program.
Platte County went 16-14-3 last season, losing in the Class 4 District 16 semifinals. The Pirates won at least 30 matches in each of the prior two seasons.
Despite a quick rebuild last year, Rylie Collins, Kenedy Knox, Kailyn Saxer-Taulbee and Madysen Fine all earned postseason honors and left another sizable void. Kunels (52 kills, 46 blocks) and fellow senior Alex Huntley (59 kills, 33 blocks) return in the middle, while junior Kenzie Polley (108 kills, 24 blocks) is the most experienced outside hitter.
Bailey Harris, a senior, and junior Carli Hensley will be relied upon to help along the backline. Harris recorded 36 aces last season to go with 65 digs, while Hensley put up 60 digs behind Collins, an All-Class 4 Region 4 defensive specialist. Knox also received all-region honors last year.
“We are kind of building and setting the new standard,” Kunels said. “We learned a lot from the previous players about perseverance. They had high goals, high expectations, and they passed that down to us.”
Longtime coach Jan Patterson retired following the 2014 season, but Shelby Hoffman stayed just one year after being named her replacement. Katlyn Donovan comes to Platte County with a 60-34 record accrued in three seasons coaching in Nebraska.