Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2007

Amnesia could be ‘07 key

Cardinals labeled KVA’s Class 4A preseason No. 1

August 23, 2007

It was 10 months ago.

It was a great season, a great run and a tremendous finish. It was the thing players and coaches dream about, and the kind of success that had maddeningly eluded the Eudora volleyball team in its two previous trips to the Class 4A state tournament.

Winning the 2006 state championship was everything the Cardinals could have hoped for, Eudora coach Jill Stutler said.

But it was 10 months ago, and as the squad is lacing up for a season with a target on its back, Stutler offered her team a piece of advice: forget about it.

Although the 2006 version of the EHS volleyball team captured the title with a two-game sweep over Augusta, Stutler feels it is best that the team focus on the upcoming season and set new goals.

"We are stressing to the players that year was a great way to finish the season, but now we move on and concentrate on what we have to do this year," Stutler said. "For those involved in the state run, it is a memory that they will have their whole life but now we are focused on this year. We have a different team and players and we have new goals to reach every day."

Under the direction of Stutler, the Lady Cardinals look to have another successful run again in 2007. However, she admits that early on, it is all about getting the returning and new players back into form.

"Practices have been going fine," Stutler said. "They have been pretty tough practices to get our players back into the swing of things. We had a week of two-a-days last week to get us started. We are concentrating on our fundamentals and conditioning and getting the freshmen used to how things are supposed to be done."

As for returning players who are looking to make an impact this season, Stutler is looking to a trio of seniors to lead this year's squad. Leading the way is middle and outside hitter Nikki Snider, followed by libero Kayci Vickers and outside hitter Elaina Kouri.

"Nikki will hopefully be huge for us throughout the lineup," Stutler said. "Kayci gives us great defense and foot speed and should be solid for us serving this year.

"Elaina Kouri is an outside hitter and possibly another setter for us in the lineup."

Also looking to throw their names into the mix are juniors outside hitter Kendal Abel, setter Mariah Webb and middle hitter Haley Epperson.

"They will provide some depth on the squad," Stutler said. "We have some other players that should also help out on the varsity."

After the solid run from a year ago, Stuter is hoping the experience will help pay off this season. However, the key will be whether the returning players will step up to fill the holes left by graduation.

There are several gapping holes, but none larger than that of Erin Kracl. She led Eudora a year ago and is now bound for the University of South Florida, where she'll continue her volleyball career.

"One of our biggest strengths will be our experience with the returners coming back," Stutler said. "Our offense should be more balanced throughout the lineup. We have some players that will need to step up and replace Erin offensively."

As for things the team needs to work on, Stutler feels her squad will need to make up for its lack of height with intensity, especially up front at the net.

"We have to be more defensive oriented because we aren't the tallest team. We have to be more scrappy," Stutler said. "We have to do a better job of getting more touches on blocks."

As for the team's schedule, the Lady Cardinals will have plenty standing between them and a repeat.

In the league, Eudora must overcome Paola. The Panthers split league-title honors with Wellsville and Eudora, and then made the trip to state along with the Cardinals.

Elsewhere, Eudora will continue with what has become a heated rivalry with Tonganoxie, and is sure to butt heads with St. James again as well.

Eudora beat the Thunder in the sub-state finals last year, but that St. James team didn't have anyone older than a sophomore, thus should bring everyone back.

"The (Frontier) league is always tough and I would imagine it will be the same again this year," Stutler said. "Paola is always a tough opponent. You can't overlook anybody when you play them."

As for aspirations of a repeat championship, Stutler feels as though it is up to her team and how they decide to respond.

"We don't talk about repeating," Stuter said. "This is a different team and our goals are the same every year. We have to train hard daily to put ourselves in a position to be successful. Our goal every day is to work harder than the day before and not worry about the future. We have to focus on the little things and not overlook anybody."

Eudora's season will begin Tuesday as it travels to Basehor-Linwood for a quadrangular against Basehor, Bonner Springs and Baldwin.

Eudora will open up its home schedule Sept. 11 in a triangular as Wellsville and Pomona come to town.

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