Stockton Lady Tiger volleyball begins the 2019 season with high expectations to improve on its 13-16-3 record of a year ago. They were 0-5 in the Mid-Lakes Conference, and traditional powers Strafford, Fair Grove and Clever do not figure to go away anytime soon. Still, coach Amanda Walton believes her team is capable of beating any opponent this year.

“I think we’re gonna give them a run for their money,” Walton said. “I speak with confidence here.”

The 2019 squad includes seniors Kaitlyn Creek, Cassidy Duncan and Kira Frazier; juniors Emma Sullivan, Riley Stapp, Maygen Mings, Taylor Householder and Stella Bahr; sophomores Kara Hedrick and Baylee Smith; and freshmen Summer Kenney and Kylie Hunter.

Much attention will be focused on 5-foot-11 outside hitter Creek, whose school-record 408 kills led the team last year. Creek indeed is one of the hardest spikers in southwest Missouri but will have backup on the front row from the likes of Mings, Stapp and Kenney. Frazier and Hunter will share setting duties, although both are capable a putting a ball down as well. Duncan will lead the defense from the libero position.

The Lady Tigers got their first real taste of competition when they hosted a preseason jamboree Thursday, Aug. 29. They opened against Billings, who finished fourth in the 2018 Class 1 state tournament. Stockton showed some nerves early, losing the first set 15-8, but rallied from a 10-5 deficit in the second set to win 16-14, resulting in a split.

The Lady Tigers dominated their other two opponents, sweeping Lockwood 15-3, 15-5 and Greenfield 15-9, 15-6.

Unofficial stats showed Creek with 17 combined kills in the three matches, Kenney with 7 kills, 8 assists and 4 aces, Frazier with 6 assists and an ace, Mings with 3 kills and a block, Stapp with 6 kills and Hunter with 17 assists and 3 kills.

Walton was pleased with the way the team gelled together as the night progressed.

“The girls work really well together,” Walton said. “We’re working on trying to figure out what rotation will be the best and so far I have found they click, and it doesn’t seem to matter where I put them.”

Stockton opened the regular season Tuesday, Sept. 2, at Ash Grove. Their next two matches, Thursday, Sept. 5, against Lamar and Tuesday, Sept. 10, against Bolivar, are both at home.

“We’ve got a good team,” Walton said. “I think it’s gonna be a season to watch, ’cause I’ve got a lot of talent. I’ve got another big hitter that’s come up and it’s gonna be an interesting combination of girls. They’re a lot peppier than last year.”

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