by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley volleyball program had one of its best seasons in school history in 2020.
The Eagles made it to the Class 4 state quarterfinals before falling to Platte County in three sets.
This season, the team hopes to meet or exceed the success that it had last season, even after losing six seniors to graduation. Head coach Tori Squiers is confident her team can do just that.
“At camp a few weeks ago, we saw a completely different team come out on the floor,” Squiers said. “They had so much energy and most importantly, we were having fun. We have a chance to go far as long as we put in the work and keep each other positive.”
Grain Valley will be led by its three seniors, outside hitter Olivia Williams, middle hitter Kellie Overturf and libero Addison Baumgartner. Junior outside hitter Addi Bybee and setter Dru Iles are returning starters who will contribute this season. Squires said that sophomore Allison Koepkey, a setter, should also get a good amount of playing time.
“I think if our district is set up the same as last year, we can make it pretty far,” Baumgartner said. “We will try to push even farther. We have some younger girls who will fill in this year that have been working hard.”
That’s a solid core returning for the Eagles this season. That will allow the team to play a fast-paced style led by the setting duo of Iles and Koepkey who will utilize quick sets to fit the Eagles’ style of play.
“We worked on that and got better at that last season,” Squiers said. “This year we are even faster and we should be able to run some new plays that involve some quick hits.”
Added Baumgartner: “I feel like this summer, at our Missouri Northwest camp, we did really well at speeding it up. We should be able to play faster than we did last year.”
Squiers said her team is strong on offense and defense and she has some tall players up front to help out with blocking. Williams, who was an all-Suburban White Conference selection team member last season, will lead the offense.
In 2020, she totaled 271 kills, 266 digs, 33 aces and 18 blocks.
“She’s been a threat for us since her sophomore year,” Squiers said. “She played all the way around as an outside (hitter). Her athletic ability and her ability to just guide the ball helps us a lot and her work ethic is amazing, too.”
Overturf and Baumgartner will be a big part of the defense for the Eagles, as the former is a strong blocker in the middle and latter is strong at getting digs in the back of the court.
“She’s got a 22-inch vertical, so she can jump, too,” Squires said of Overturf. “She is not only a defensive threat but an offensive one, too. And that’s something that is hard to find in the middle. Her hands will touch every single ball on a block but she can also put the ball away on offense.
“Addison has been an outside threat for us, but she is moving to libero. She’s awesome and her leadership ability is something that we need at the libero position.”
Even after losing six seniors from last year’s squad, Grain Valley still appears to be a team that can make another deep playoff run in 2021. Last season, the Eagles shared the Suburban White Conference title with Truman, but hope for a little bit of a different result this time around.
“I am hoping to not split it this year and have it all to ourselves,” Squiers said. “It’s just going to take constant communication and hard work from the girls.”