STUARTS DRAFT – What can the Stuarts Draft High School volleyball team do for an encore? After coming within one match of reaching the state 2A championship game last season, the Cougars have their sights set high for 2016.
The Cougars finished with a 16-9 record, losing to Marion in the state semifinal last season, and although four key members from that squad graduated, head coach Michelle Kirby has a strong core of seniors to send onto the court.
“Our seniors are all tremendous athletes and they excel,” Kirby said.
Although quite short in height, the Cougars don’t take a back seat at the net. Middle hitter Deborah Black is likely one of the shortest middle hitters, but her timing and leaping ability are exceptional.
Danielle Brenneman on the outside is a strong defensive player, who has a knack for saving points from hitting the floor with her diving ability.
Faith Shirley lines up at libero and gives the Cougars versatility.
Madison Chestnut will set, and Kirby indicated that she has the ability to use a variety of sets for her hitters.
Sydney Montoya will play back row and is strong defensively and also has improved on the front row.
Another middle hitter, Rendy Dressler, is adept at hitting lines.
Four juniors up from the junior varsity provide a luxury of depth. Rachel Smith and Kenna Swink are good blockers, while Sheridan Ruff is gaining consistency in passing and Logan Turner can play up front or in the back.
Sophomore Makaila Napier passes well and hits hard up front, while freshman Emily Link will back up Chestnut at setter with really good hands and blends in well with her older teammates.
With a total of 12 players, Kirby has a good problem in trying to find the best rotation.
“We are really short, but have good quickness,” Kirby said. “The seniors have been playing together a long time and are expecting a lot.”
The Draft mentor said that the girls are hard workers and have set high goals.
The Cougars will compete in the competitive Shenandoah District in pursuit of another long postseason run. They also have tough matches with neighboring 3A schools Fort Defiance and Waynesboro and tip off the season next Saturday with a tournament in Fluvanna.
“The thing that has pleased me the most so far is the drive they have to reach their goals,” Kirby said.