Building upon the momentum of a late 2013 season charge, winning seven of their last nine matches, the 2014 Barton Community College volleyball team hit the practice courts just 18 days before their first match of the 2014 season.
This past Monday, the Lady Cougars welcomed seven new players to join seven returners to begin training for the season opener Friday, August 22, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at the Iowa Western Tournament.
Under second-year head coach Phil Shoemaker, the Lady Cougars face a rebuilding year of sorts having to replace two All-Region VI performers. Gone from the ranks are two-time All-KJCCC and Region VI player McKenzie Piland and All-KJCCC and Region VI defensive specialist Kiara Rivera. Also departing to graduation were two-year starters Jori Mote and Mackenzie Orchard.
Key returners for the Lady Cougars begin at the setter position with 5-foot-6 Lakyn Rowden from Wamego and 5-9 Casey Friesen from Pflugerville, Texas, as the duo alternated setting the offense throughout the 2013 campaign.
Along the front line 5-11 Jenna Reid from Calgary, Canada, will be counted on to shore up the middle while Larned’s high flying 5-7 Tahje Ochs attacks from the outside.
Returning experience on the back row includes 5-7 Jennica O’Neill from Wamego and Hoisington’s 5-5 Mykela Riedl.
Kim Hockley, from Yellow Grass, Canada, returns from a medical redshirt freshman season to give Barton a 6-4 frame to join Ochs in the outside attack.
Barton picked up three locals for the incoming class with 5-9 middle hitter Ashley Lockwood and 5-8 setter Abi Rziha from Hoisington and 5-6 defensive specialist Kylee Spray from Great Bend.
Combing the state of Kansas, 5-11 middle hitter Kylie Jones arrives from Rexford, 5-9 outside hitter Emily Deterding from Lindsborg and 5-11 middle hitter Jordan Edelman from Wichita.
Rounding out the incoming class the Lady Cougars plucked another talent from Canada in 6-1 outside hitter Jessie Sewell.
The 2013 Lady Cougars finished the season 14-20 overall, but an 8-6 fourth-place finish in the rugged Jayhawk West.
Barton won their last five matches of the regular season, three of those on the road, including shattering Colby’s dream of an outright conference title by knocking off the Trojans 3-1 in Colby.
The loss was costly for the Trojans in not only forcing a two-way tie in the final standings but sending home court advantage for the Region VI Tournament to Hutchinson.
Barton easily won its first Region VI playoff game with a 3-0 victory over Cloud County to advance to the region final four for the 31st time in program history.
The lone times the Lady Cougars haven’t reached the semifinals was the first two years of the program and during the 2006 season when Barton went 7-1 in conference play but was on a department wide post-season ban.
After losing 3-1 to top-seeded Hutchinson in the semifinals, the Lady Cougars bounced back with a 3-0 season ending defeat of Seward County. Barton then looked poised to reach the Region VI Championship game for the fourth straight season, but the Lady Cougars let a two-set lead over Colby dissipate in a five-set disappointing end to the 2013 season.
Barton will begin the season on the road with four matches in the Iowa Western Tournament. It will then embark on a seven-day, four-match stretch at the friendly confines of the Barton Gym, beginning with a key Jayhawk West matchup against perennial conference power Seward County at 6:30 p.m. on August 27.
Two days later, the junior varsity from Friends University comes to the Barton Gym on August 29 followed by Jayhawk East power Cowley College the very next day.
The Lady Cougars wrap up the home stand with a September 3 conference match against Garden City.