The pieces are in place for Fort Scott High's volleyball team to have a very good season. But keeping players healthy will be a key as there isn't much depth, particularly at setter.
Head coach Carol Bingesser feels good about her starting lineup and her specialists. And while senior Mallory Shelton will be back for her fourth varsity season, senior setter Kenzie Heatherly, who will be starting for her second season, could be the key player. She is the only varsity setter.
"Kenzie does have a lot of pressure on her," Bingesser, beginning her fifth season as head coach, said. "We've got to keep her healthy and in shape so that she's ready all the time."
Health has also come into play in the short time the Tigers (25-13 last season) have been practicing. Shelton is working her way back from an ankle injury she suffered during the summer. And senior Kristin Allen is out for the time being with a concussion.
The Tigers' height is a strength Bingesser feels will be a key. Shelton is 6' 1", senior Heather Karleskint is 6-feet even and senior Taylor Grant is about 5' 10".
"I have an overabundance -- and I'm not complaining -- of height," Bingesser says. "We're trying to take advantage of that as much as we can."
Shelton has started the previous three seasons and is back in the middle of the front tow backed up by sophomore Brianne Lawrence, who's roughly 5' 10" herself.
"Mallory's going to be tough," Bingesser said. "She looks stronger. She's quicker than she has been. The injury is the first time she's really hurt herself. She's just now getting back close to 100 percent. I think right now, she's pretty much back on track."
Karleskint will start on the right side while Grant will move back to the left side, which is her natural position. Grant played right last year because the Tigers were deep on the left side. Sophomore Ericah Shoemaker backs up on the left side.
"I see strong play from our front line," Bingesser says. "I think we'll be a pretty good blocking team. Things are really clicking for Heather. Taylor last year had to play the right side ... and she was smart enough to adjust. But now she can be more comfortable on the left side."
Allen and junior Shelby Maycumber will be back row players. Junior Paige Denton will be the libero. The roster is rounded out by senior Lahanna Large.
The Tigers should be a good serving team and Bingesser expects them to be a better passing team than last season.
"I don't want to jinx us but I think this will be a better passing year," she said. "Paige has really stepped up. And Ericah and Shelby can pass very well. So those three you'll see probably passing 70 to 75 of the time."
Since the three front-line players will be playing all the way around the court, they will also have to be good passers.
The Tigers finished tied with Chanute and Labette County for second place in the Southeast Kansas League last season as Pittsburg won the league crown -- its third in the past five seasons. The Tigers will see Pittsburg and Chanute in their first two varsity outings.
"Pittsburg will match up well with us," Bingesser said. "They'll have (Skyler) Muff, who matches up with Mallory and it's always a big rivalry. Chanute will be back. They have the Flowers girl, who's tall and very strong. The Chanute girls are always ready. Parsons has gotten stronger and stronger."
Fort Scott hosts its Red & White Scrimmage at 4 p.m. Friday in the FSHS gymnasium. Then they open the season Saturday morning at 9 a.m. with a non-league quadrangular at Pittsburg which also includes Girard and Columbus. Tuesday, they'll be in Chanute for another non-league affair which will include Colgan.
"The quad on Saturday should show us how ready we are," Bingesser says. "I think we're ready to play."