Cardinals enjoy highlights despite falling short of season goals
Eudora head volleyball coach Jill Stutler said her team's performance at Baldwin Sept. 3 was a microcosm for the entire season.
"We reached some of our goals, but we came up short, not winning 20 and not coming out of sub-state like we hoped," Stutler said.
The Cards, who finished the season 19-14 (4-5), took an early lead on highly-regarded Baldwin before falling in three sets Sept. 3.
As the season progressed, the Cardinals set a goal of winning 20 games. Eudora earned the number four seed at the Tonganoxie sub-state but were upset by fifth-seeded Mill Valley.
Still, Eudora enjoyed several highlights during Stutler's second season as head coach.
"We finished second in two tournaments we played in (McLouth and Wellsville)," Stutler said. "We rebounded from a tough night at Gardner to play two great games against Baldwin and Anderson County."
The Cards also posted a 4-1 home record in League play, defeating strong programs such as Baldwin, Anderson County and Osawatomie. Eudora also took two out of three games from archrival Wellsville this season.
The team had its annual awards banquet Monday night. Junior Lauren Kracl, who led the team in serving aces and kills, was named team Most Valuable Player. Kracl, a Division I volleyball prospect, was also named to the first-team all -Frontier League.
Freshman Kelsey Epperson received the most improved award while senior Nicole Born won the most improved offense player award. Seniors Jenny Durkin and Tina Lauber were each recipients of the Coaches Award. Durkin was also honorable mention all-Frontier League.
For the junior varsity squad, sophomore Alissa Hamilton was named MVP. Junior Rachel Abel and freshman Hanna Niedens were named defensive and offensive MVP, respectively. Freshman Carrie Lister was named the most improved player on the squad.
Stutler said the Cards were going to rely on several of the underclassmen, including this year's junior varsity players, to improve as a team next season.
"We have high expectations of the future," Stutler said. "We're going to build on everything we had this year."
However, Stutler is going to miss each of the four seniors and the contributions they made to the Eudora program.
"We're going to miss all four kids," Stutler said. "We relied on them for a long time."
Three of the four seniors began their varsity careers at Eudora when Stutler became the head coach last fall. Senior Mallorie Cleveland joined the team this season. When this group of seniors was climbing up from junior varsity to varsity, Stutler made the transition along with them.
Born, who was second on the team in serving aces, said she enjoyed playing for Stutler during the past two seasons. She will play second base for the Cardinals softball team this fall and would like to attend Baker, Kansas, or Kansas State university to study in the medical field.
"We had a really good team and played well together," Born said. "They (the team) lost four leaders and they're going to have to get people to step up."
Stutler said Born led by example on the volleyball court.
"Nicole was one of our quiet leaders someone who became a good server for us and scored points when we needed them," Stutler said.
Cleveland returned to the volleyball program after two seasons of injuries. She played on the freshman and junior varsity teams as a freshman in 1999. Cleveland, who also plays varsity basketball and softball, is hoping to pursue one or both of those sports at the collegiate level.
Both Cleveland and Stutler admire each other's competitive drive.
"She was a competitive coach," Cleveland said. "She pushed us a lot harder. She was the most competitive coach I've had."
Stutler said Cleveland did a great job motivating herself and her teammates.
"Cleveland was our big competitor," Stutler said. "She was the vocal leader for us and she did a great job throughout the season."
Durkin, who finished second behind Kracl in kills, said this season was a lot better than last year.
"One of the big highlights was beating Baldwin when we played them the second time," Durkin said. "We all played really well and came together."
Durkin has qualified for the class 4A state track meet in the high jump event the past three seasons. She hopes to compete in that event at Emporia State, Fort Hays State or Pittsburg State university to study communications. Durkin also plays for the Cardinals varsity basketball team.
"Jenny's come a long way since she was a sophomore," Stutler said. "She was more consistent. She was a big leader for us."
Lauber, the only senior on the squad who counts volleyball as her favorite sport, was proud to be a part of Eudora's turnaround this season.
"The team just clicked really well and we all seemed to go together as one," Lauber said. "When we beat Baldwin that was really special for us. They are our big rival and that definitely meant a lot."
Lauber also plays on the varsity basketball team. Next fall she hopes to attend K-State to study elementary education.
"Tina is one of our motivators," Stutler said. "Over the last three years, she's filled multiple roles for us. She did a great job wherever we needed her to play."