Putting together a roster that can sustain inevitable injuries and provide enough depth to make practices competitive has been a struggle for the Burr Oak varsity volleyball team in recent years. However, head coach Kris Owens has found some talented youngsters to go with a more experienced returning group in 2013.
The Bobcats are already off to a strong start, including a tournament title at Tekonsha on Aug. 24. And the eighth-grade tandem of Brooke Cooper and Sydney Owens — facing athletes far more physically advanced — aren’t backing down from the challenge of skipping the junior high and junior varsity levels. Cooper has an especially tough assignment at the setter position.
Under the tutelage of players like Michaela Ultz, the only four-year starter on the squad and a 2012 All-SCAA honorable mention, the two newbies registered a combined 17 aces to help Burr Oak win its first tourney of the young season.
“Last year was a difficult year,” Owens said. “I did not have any experienced nor solid setters, and that made it difficult to be competitive at the varsity level. Also, we did not have a JV team, which resulted in a varsity team with low-skilled players to practice with more advanced players.
“I am looking forward to a much better season this year,” Owens said. “My two notable seniors [Jade Summey and Ultz] attended an attacking academy, and so did [eighth-grader] Sydney [Owens] over the summer. One of the incoming eighth-graders, Brooke Cooper, also attended camp over the summer for setting. The setters will make all the difference this year and will make running a faster-paced and more versatile offense possible.”
Hillsdale Academy and Camden-Frontier look to keep pace with perennial power Battle Creek St. Philip in the league race, and North Adams-Jerome could be a pesky opponent in 2013 as well. But the Bobcats are much more confident heading into conference play this season and plan on being a major disruption to the status quo.
“I expect to finish in the middle of the league — much improved over last year,” Owens said.
BURR OAK BOBCATS
Coach: Kris Owens (8th year)
2012 recap: The Bobcats finished eighth in the Southern Central Athletic Association East Division with an 0-14 record and lost to Howardsville Christian in the second round of districts.
Key players in 2013: Michaela Ultz (Sr., MH); Jade Summey (Sr., OH); Jade Lown (Jr., OH/L); Madi Adams (Jr., OH); Sydney Owens (8th, OH/S); Brooke Cooper (8th, S); Chelsey Boyd (So., MH).