NEW PALESTINE — The big hitters are returning from a big season.
New Palestine’s volleyball team went 24-5 last year. They reached the championship match of the Sectional 10 tournament, losing to Cathedral.
Reagan Kleiman and Lauren Wilson finished off a lot of those points. They’re back again in hopes of leading the Dragons to another strong year.
Kleiman, a 6-1 senior, and Wilson, a 5-11 sophomore, were All-Hoosier Heritage Conference team members. They were New Pal’s top two hitters.
Kleiman, who has committed to Taylor University, had a team-best 326 kills. Wilson had 302. Kleiman led the team in blocks with 68.
Kelli Gabehart, in her 10th season as New Palestine’s head coach, expects her team to be strong up front.
They have more than just the talented tandem.
The attacking group also includes Bella Brownfield, a 5-7 outside hitter. She had over 80 kills in her sophomore season. Senior setter Isabella Gizzi not only assists her hitters, she had 96 kills last year, too.
“We have two huge weapons with Kleiman and Wilson,” Gabehart said. “Our setter, Gizzi, is very offensive and Brownfield, another outside (hitter), is dynamic out there, as well. I think we’re going to have a lot of girls that can score.”
Gabehart believes with the three strong attackers, and a couple of other hitters with varsity experience, they should be able to score in any rotation.
A big key will be getting the ball to Gizzi.
They have veterans in the front row, but the Dragons will be younger on the back line.
All-HHC libero Grace Myers (DePauw) and another outstanding defensive specialist in McKaylah Flagle (Taylor) have graduated and moved on to play at the collegiate level.
Myers had 385 digs. Flagle had 163 and a team-high 54 service aces. Another graduate from the back row, Trinity Oertel had 149 digs.
Returning to lead the defense is senior Honour Mallory. She had 96 digs last season. Mallory, Gizzi and Kleiman are the team’s only seniors.
Sophomore Kyndra Monteith and freshman Azure Flagle, McKaylah’s younger sister, are expected to jump in at the defensive positions.
Gabehart and the Dragons have more varsity experience returning in middle blocker Rachel Burke, right-side hitter Nyla Lewis and defensive specialist Sydney Oliver. All three are juniors.
Outside hitter Jada Hausz (137 kills), middle hitter Lauren Cornwell (22 blocks) and setter Gabby Cruz are other graduation losses from the 24-win team.
“We did lose quite a few seniors, but I feel like the corps of our front row is returning and we also have some young players that are going to do a good job in the back row,” Gabehart said. “I’m expecting a really good season from us. I think we’ll have a really solid team.”
The Dragons open the season today at Scecina. The home opener is Monday against Connersville. The always tough HHC season gets underway at Greenfield-Central on Sept. 1.