The Barton Community College volleyball team enters the season with a No. 16 ranking in the NJCAA Division I preseason poll.
The ranking is in response to the Lady Cougars winning the Region VI tournament in 2010, beating Seward County 25-15, 25-18 and 25-7.
Then Barton went to the NJCAA tournament at Missouri State University-West Plains, losing to Western Wyoming in three game 25-22, 25-23 and 25-20. The loss left Barton with a 26-10 season record.
Barton’s new head volleyball coach Patrick Hall said that the key to living up to the ranking is to improve the team’s serve-receive game.
“We’re still looking a little ragged, but on the other hand, there are some bright spots out there,” Hall said. “We still need to pick up the tempo on our offense. That’s really our major goal this year on the offensive end.
“Then we’ve been working real hard on serve-receive, which is going to be a big part of our success this year.”
The Lady Cougars are returning six players from last season.
The top returner for Barton is 6-foot sophomore setter Juliana de Barros, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who Hall insists is the best setter in the conference.
“She is amazing,” Hall said. “She is all-American caliber player, but the sad thing is you look at her stat last year and there’s someone who is only getting seven or eight assists a game. Well, for somebody of that caliber, that’s telling you that the passing just isn’t there.
“That caliber setter could have 12 assists a game. She should be up there ranked in that statistical category with the top setters in the country because she is.
The Brazil native led the team in assists with an average of 7.95 assists per game. She also recorded 134 kills.
The Lady Cougars are returning their kill-leader Malia Tonga, who hails from Laie, Hawaii. Tonga recorded 325 kills in her freshman season.
“She’s a big offensive weapon for us,” Hall said. “When she gets back, we’ll be a lot stronger offensively, but still the bottom line is we need to improve our passing.”
Barton’s No. 2 scorer, Raney Okeson, graduated last season. Hall looks to 6-foot-2 freshman Paula da Silva to step in her place offensively and defensively.
“Having Paula, the 6-2 girl coming in here helps,” Hall said, “but once again, you saw it several times (in practice). We wasted a whole rotation. We never got her the ball. If you can’t pass the ball to our setter, we can’t get the ball to her.
“We will probably double our block stats just having her on the team, but our block stats last year was pretty low.”
Da Silva is from Uberlandia, Brazil, where she used to work with de Barros.
“They were friends,” Hall said. “In fact, they worked in the same building in Brazil. They played with each other there.”
Giselle de Moura, also a Brazil native, will be stepping into the vacant libero position left by Morgan Cooper.
Barton Community College
Aug. 26 — HESSTON, noon
Aug. 26 — CISCO, 6 p.m.
Aug. 27 — CLARENDON, 11 a.m.
Aug. 27 — BUTLER, 5 p.m.
Aug. 31 — at Garden City, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 — at Cloud County, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 7 — DODGE CITY, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 12 — at Hutchinson, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 16-17 — at Southern Idaho tournament
Sept. 21 — PRATT, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 23-24 — at Wyo-Braska tournament
Sept. 26 — COLBY, 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 — at Seward County, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 — GARDEN CITY, 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at Dodge City, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 7-8 — at Air Force Prep tournament
Oct. 12 — HUTCHINSON, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 14-15 — at Missouri State University-West Plains tournament
Oct. 18 — at Pratt, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 20 — at Colby, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 — CLOUD COUNTY, 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 — SEWARD COUNTY, 6:30 p.m.
HOME MATCHES IN ALL CAPS
Outside hitter/Libero Ashley Archer, 5-8, freshman; Middle blocker Isabel Valdez, 5-9, freshman; Outside hitter Malia Tonga, 5-10, sophomore; Right side Kamri Nehls, 5-11, sophomore; Setter Jasbelle Cruz, 5-10, freshman; Middle blocker Taylor Arnold, 5-10, sophomore; Libero Giselle de Moura, 5-8, sophomore; Outside hitter Gabriella Oliveira, 5-9, sophomore; Middle blocker Taylor Littleton, 6-0, freshman; Setter Juliana de Barros, 6-0, sophomore; Middle blocker Paula da Silva, 6-2, freshman.
“No doubt, she’s by far our best defensive player and our best passer,” Hall said. “She’s going to be good for us this year. She had that knee operation last year. That ACL tear took her out.”
Cooper led the team with 420 digs as a defensive specialist.
“She did very well,” Hall said. “I think she surprised a lot of people, and I think she played above herself. She did really well. I think (she) will step right in. It is not a position that I’m worried about.”
The Lady Cougars open their season against Hesston at noon on Friday, Aug. 26, at Kirkman Activity Center.