One senior, a couple of juniors, a few freshmen, and a whole bunch of sophomores compose a Bucklin High School volleyball team that head coach Emily Evans said is young, but experienced.
“They're very experienced, and the atmosphere in the gym so far has been very positive, very uplifting and we're super-focused,” Evans said.
The Red Aces compete in the ultra-competitiveSouthern Plains - Iroquois Activities Association, a league in which three different teams made it to their respective state playoffs last year.
Fowler went in 1A DII before falling in pool play, Kiowa County went in 2A and South Central advanced all the way to final before losing to Centralia in the state championship round of 1A DI.
Kiowa County moves down into 1A this year, and starting this season 1A DI and 1A DII are combined into a unified 1A division.
"I think we have a really good chance this year,” Evans said. “We might be somewhat young still, but we're still a pretty experienced team for our ages and what not. I think we will be able to definitely hold our own going into league play and into regionals and what not."
The team’s goals, Evans said, include the obvious one of making it to state, but also include finishing top-3 in SPIAA.
To do that, they’ll have to improve their focus, and their ability to finish matches, Evans said.
"Those have been been two goals of mine that we've really tried to hit hard the first week,” Evans said. “Finishing obviously has been huge. We can hold up with a team and then we get to 20 sometimes and it just seems like we lose our steam and we lose our focus and we can't finish those last five points and so we've really been pushing hard on that.”
They also continue to work on the basics. The major skills they have, but the little things are the ones they’re working on, Evans said.
They’ll be led by their one senior: Tricia Hokanson. A four-year varsity player, she’s a big part of the front line for the Red Aces, a group which is one of the strengths of this team entering the season, Evans said.
Hokanson will be trouble for opponents, Evans said.
"She has just gotten stronger and able to hit the ball harder and harder,” Evans said. “She's gonna be a force to be reckoned with I think in this league this year. She's coming out guns-blazin' that's for sure."
She’s not the only one. Catherine Bowman, who doubles up as a setter and a hitter, is another.
"That girl, she probably can't do any wrong,” Evans said. “I mean she's just a solid all-around athlete and we've got numerous of those.”