Optimism is at an all-time high in New Palestine. Though volleyball head coach Kelli Whitaker lost six seniors to graduation, the team’s current group is banding together to get the Dragons back on track.
Finishing 14-19 last season and 0-7 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, New Palestine was 17-16 in Whitaker’s first season.
With seniors Taylor Lawson and Katyln Keele back and the return of All-Hancock County selection Allison Dennenman, year three could develop into a breakthrough campaign.
“This is going to be a great season for us,” Whitaker said. “Our team chemistry is higher than it has ever been, and that is due to our amazing senior leadership.”
Lawson, a right-side hitter, and Keele, an outside hitter, have been named team captains. Lawson had 139 kills and 115 digs as a junior last season. Keele provided 90 kills in 2014.
“They put the team before themselves in all situations and have shown tremendous maturity in their positions as captains,” Whitaker remarked on her senior duo.
The offense will hinge on Keele and the sophomore tandem of outside hitter Allison Dennemann and middle blocker Mia Long.
Dennenmann, who is netting high interest from college recruiters, was named All-HHC and All-Hancock County after leading the program with 447 kills, 63 aces and 43 blocks.
Long, an all-county and conference honorable mention, had 35 blocks, 26 aces and 98 kills.
Kara Morris, a junior setter, will be called upon to facilitate the offense once again following 727 assists recorded last year.
Claire Manley, a junior libero, and freshman defensive specialist Emma Tucher will help generate rallies, Whitaker said.
“We have goals to improve our overall standings in our tough conference this season,” she added. “Our goal is to pursue competitive excellence in every game.”
First serve: The Dragons opened with back-to-back 3-0 road wins. They swept Connersville on Monday and Guerin Catholic on Wednesday.