RAVENSWOOD - With a 25-24 2012 season in the rearview, a core of season veterans led by All-Stater Katie Buckbee and an influx of talented, fearless freshmen have veteran Devilette volleyball coach Gary Braham optimistic that 2013 could be a very good year.
A two-sport star (softball in the spring), Buckbee returns for her senior volleyball season after putting up big numbers as a junior that capapulted her to Class AA All-State First Team Honors and a banner on the RvHS new gym's Volleyball Wall of Fame among the elite players of the state tournament.
"I really want us to make it to states," Buckbee said.
In her All-State season (2012), Buckbee was a dominant scorer (team-high 593 points) and hitter (team-high 297 kills, 87% spiker) and was the top passer with 999. She's poised to be even more dominating in 2013.
"If we continue to practice hard and play together," I really think we have a good chance to make it to states," added senior Michaela Hughes, her team's top service ace producer with 85 in 2012. Hughes added 324 points and 120 kills among her stats.
Tia Querrey, another senior, is the team's premier setter and will continue to be in 2013 as the Devilettes run a 6-1 set. Querrey dominated the setting in 2012 with 2,228, scored 233 points and served 71 aces as part of a 94.2% serving season.
"Playing for Braham is amazing," added Querrey. "He's a great coach."
Natalie Francis rounds out the 2013 senior quarter and will be the team's weak side hitter this season. In 2012, Francis scored 115 points, served 42 aces and had 27 blocks.
"We're looking forward to this season since we've all played together," added Francis.
Also back to play libero for the 2013 team is junior Jordan Strickland, a 90.4% server who scored 122 points and served 42 aces in 2012.
Entering the varsity volleyball world are a group of talented freshmen who will have an immediate impact. In addition to her talent, tey bring a fearlessness with them to the team.
"They don't have any respect for us. That's all I have to say about that," quipped Hughes. "When we were freshmen, we were scared to death. They aren't. They'll be good. They'll just have to get past the nerves of the first few games."
Rookies Bayli Manns (a multi-sport talent) and Lauren Hoff will be varsity starters as middle blockers, according to Braham. "They'll play a lot,"s aid Braham. "They're our future. We expect big things out of them as they get acclimated to the varsity level of play."
Freshmen Ariana Kennedy and Bri Comer are also freshman members of the varsity squad.
All four freshmen will also play jayvee volleyball, joining sophomores Mikayla Patterson and Delana McCoy and fellow freshmen Erica Green, Brooklyn Smith and Katlyn Nichols.
Braham said he was pleasantly surprised with his team's showing in preseason scrimmages versus Ripley and Nitro.
Page 2 of 2 - "We laid an egg versus Nitro in the first game, but we won the scrimmage 3-1," said the veteran coach. "We got some answers and we identified some things we need to work on in this upcoming final week of practice before our first real match (versus St. Albans and Buffalo on Sept. 5)."