MORRILL — Returning just one starter from last year’s 7-17 squad, the Morrill volleyball team is looking to improve this fall under first-year head coach Kaiya West.
West, a graduate of Gering High School, is heading into the season with high hopes and lots of fresh faces.
Morrill’s only returning starter from last year is senior captain Dylainee Peacock, who comes in with experience at the setter and hitter positions.
“We have a completely different set of girls now because we graduated six seniors last year, so our varsity squad coming in is very, very fresh,” West said. “We have so much raw athleticism that we’ve been working on a lot of special skill focuses and team things this last week in practice.”
West will also be looking for contributions from seniors Amanda Kaufman, Sabrina Austin and Athena Tarin, who will take on some fairly different roles from last year.
“Sabrina was our libero last year and we’re actually going to be moving her into a hitting position now,” West said. “She’ll get quite a bit of playing time and Amanda will step in as one of our setters.”
Also expected to play key roles on this year’s squad are sophomores Laurissa Gonzales and LeAnne Sherrod. Gonzales will play at both libero and setter, while Sherrod will fill a role as a middle hitter.
The Lions received a boost to their roster with the addition of Kiley Guerue, a 5-foot-9 senior transfer from Scottsbluff. Guerue is expected to bolster Morrill’s offensive attack as an outside hitter.
“Kiley has been a great addition to our team. I’m really happy to have her,” West said. “She brings a lot of intensity to practice and that’s really nice for us to have.”
West will also look to a pair of freshmen to work into the rotation when the Lions take the court. Jessica Harvey will look for some experience at the middle hitter position, while Kaitlyn Margheim will juggle the roles of setter and outside hitter.
In addition to the many new faces on this year’s Morrill squad, West welcomes in a new assistant coach in Katy Gibb, who was a three-sport athlete at Creek Valley in 2008. Gibb was a standout outside hitter for the Storm and West believes Gibb’s knowledge at the net will compliment West’s forte, the back row.
“Katy has come in and really has shown the girls a lot as far as hitting and offensive output over the past week,” West said of Gibb’s playing experience. “So I feel like she and I make a really good team as far as our skill specialties working with the girls. I’m grateful to have her.”
After assuming the role of assistant coach last year, West is excited to get the season started as head coach when the Lions open their season by hosting Bayard on Friday.
“We’re kind of putting all the pieces together. I think we have the potential to do some damage this year. I’m really excited because I think we have the girls to be really successful.”