By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
What the Monticello High School volleyball team lacks in experience, it hopes to make up for in size and athletic ability as it begins the season under a new head coach, Lori Lammers.
The Panthers return three starters from last year’s team, which went 4-5 in the Tri-Rivers Conference and 8-18 overall last season.
Senior Sydney Owen, who will play the libero position, heads that list. She led the team in digs last season with 186, averaging more than three per set.
Also back are sophomores Sonya McCormick and Traci Plummer, both of whom saw plenty of varsity action last season.
The Panthers hope those three, combined with momentum gained during the Monticello softball team’s recent state tournament run, will translate into success this fall.
“We will have a lot of size, with four players at least 5-foot-10,” Lammers said. “Inexperience will be an issue as we start the season, but don’t expect that to last long.
“We have a great group of kids who were part of the state tournament softball team this summer, so we really hope to build from the success the softball kids had.”
The Panthers will enter a new conference, the River Valley, and play in the North Division. Lammers said Cascade is the likely favorite in that division, while West Liberty should be favored in the South.
“I think this conference will be extremely competitive,” Lammers said. “Having coached at Iowa City Regina in 2010 and 2011, I am pretty familiar with what the southern division of our conference will look like.
“It should be a pretty exciting year of volleyball in the new conference.”
Lammers is originally from Manchester. She has coached for 19 years, including 10 years as a head coach, at a variety of places including Atlantic and Iowa City Regina.
She became familiar with Monticello athletes even before she knew the volleyball coaching job was open.
“I watched them play softball at the West Delaware tournament,” Lammers said, adding that she was impressed with the Panthers’ athletic ability.
“I know Monticello has great athletes,” she said. “And I’ve been really impressed with their work ethic. This group of kids has worked hard since day one of camp.
“I think the kids are going to be more successful than what they’re expecting this year.”
She is assisted by Kylie McDonell, Laura Guilford and Tiffany Rave.