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Lady Panther Spikers Gunning For Another 20-Win Season
August 15, 2007 - Knightstown Lady Panther volleyball coach Carrie Underwood faces the daunting task of replacing both of her setters and four very talented players lost due to graduation. But the coach is more than optimistic that the talent on hand can get the job done again this year.
The Lady Panthers are following up on back-to-back 20-win seasons, and have high expectations despite losing four starters. Gone are Kendra Kopp, Chelsea Hochstedler, Cara Denis and Jessica VanOsdol. But six starters are returning, and they will be surrounded by several talented underclassmen challenging for playing time.
“We have six returning letter winners, and they will be asked to do a lot more this year,” Underwood said. “The last two weeks I really like what I’ve seen out of these girls. They have just worked their tales off, and we’re pretty excited about what this team can do this year.”
Returning are senior veterans Janice Ortman and Megan Grant.
“Janice is hitting with power this year and she is more confident and much more aggressive,” Underwood said. “Megan is our verbal leader. We’re expecting a lot out of both of them this year.”
Crystal Heim, who Underwood calls a “spunky go-getter,” will work the middle despite being only about 5’6”. Sophomore Haley Cruse will run the back row. Junior Brandi Lightner will be a setter, and Ashley Griggs is slowly getting back to speed after suffering an ankle injury.
Juniors Brittany Dreisback and Ashley Goller, as well as freshman Hannah Jackson, round out the primary roster of nine. Underwood said she won’t hesitate to use players such as Judy Grant and Lindsay Kennedy from a deep and talented junior varsity squad.
“We’re working hard to keep the program at a high level,” Underwood said. “Two years ago we won 24 matches, and last year we won 20. A lot of people didn’t expect that much success out of us last year, and this year we’re hoping to continue playing at that level.
“We scrimmaged Eastern Hancock last Thursday and I thought we played pretty well. The girls looked a lot stronger than I expected in several areas. They were relaxed and played well together. I don’t know if we’ll have a true go-to hitter this year, but we will be very well balanced.”
One break the team got before the season started was provided by the IHSAA. In a sectional realignment, Knightstown will no longer see perennial state power Muncie Burris in the sectional. The Class 2A volleyball sectional 42 at Shenandoah includes Cambridge City Lincoln, Centerville, Eastern Hancock, Hagerstown, Knightstown, Northeastern, Shenandoah and Union County. As usual, the Raiders figure to be the preseason favorite.
Kayla Littleton, a former Lady Panther who played college volleyball at Transylvania University, will be Underwood’s assistant coach this year.
“Kayla has really been an asset and has been putting the girls through some pretty demanding workouts. She’s great with them.
“This is really a great group of girls to work with,” Underwood said. “They really communicate well and I think are going to be an exciting team to watch.”
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