With eight returning players, the Cougars are out to improve upon last year’s 24-win and sectional championship season.
“These kids kind of have a target on their back, which is a little different for us,” Back said. “Last year was huge for us, but going into this season, they expect to win. They are no longer the team that has to fight just to get noticed. We have a lot more confidence this year.
“They’re more prepared this year; they have been in big games. They have more desire and are more focused. They are showing maturity and mental toughness.”
The Cougars have some unfinished business from 2016, when they lost their first regional game.
Five seniors lead the way. Setter Lexi Odgers (384 assists, 106 digs, 55 aces) is a former defensive specialist who has quickness. Sister Aubrey Odgers (135 digs) returns as libero. Sierra Gilson (135 kills) brings power as an outside hitter who has improved her game. Outside hitter Grace Peters (92 kills) is the glue that holds the Cougars together. Middle blocker Sarah Mangan, the Cougars’ tallest player at 6-0, is a southpaw (59 kills, 24 blocks) and is recovering from a minor injury.
Junior Rylie Scott and sophomore Zoey Schaeffer return as defensive specialists and sophomore Jess Miller backs Mangan.
Heralded newcomer Izzy Reed adds more power as a freshman outside hitter who succeeds lone graduate Katie Cruse, 104 digs, 37 aces.