OTTUMWA — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa High School Bulldog volleyball team will look to reclaim the CIML Metro championship this fall.
The Bulldogs five-year reign as league champions came to an end last season thanks to a tough loss to Des Moines Roosevelt. The girls will look for redemption when they take on the Roughriders this season.
This season’s youth-heavy squad will lean heavily on its more experienced players, including middle Katie Sammons and setters Beth Overturf and Megan Black. Carson said black will see some time as a right-side hitter, but she will mostly remain at the setter position. The Bulldogs’ veteran players, however, won’t be able do it alone.
“It’s going to be a matter of the underclassmen stepping up,” head coach Jessica Carson said.
Though they didn’t capture the league championship, the Bulldogs still had a solid season in 2011; they finished the season with a 25-12 record. Ottumwa’s season ended with a loss to Iowa City in the Class 4A, Region 8 semifinals.
“I have a very athletic group this year, and I think that is definitely going to be in our favor,” Carson said.
Still, the girls will be without two of their premier players who graduated last year: Ashley Salgado (libero) and Peyton Crosser (middle). Crosser broke the school record for number of kills in a season with 347, and Salgado was one the best in the state at serves and digs. The Bulldogs also will be without outside hitter Ashley Short, who was all-conference second team her senior season, and Avery Roane, who made honorable mention as a senior.
“Katie Sammons should do very well filling the spot in the middle,” Carson said. “She is just a very strong, powerful hitter.”
Sammons, along with Overturf, were both second team selected for all-conference second team last season.
“We have a few of our hitters returning,” Carson said. “We’ve traditionally had very good hitters. Sammy Garrett has been looking good in outside hitting.”
Carson also singled out senior libero Olivia Roark for praise. She said Roark has looked strong this summer.
The Bulldog coach said her girls have been sharpening their skills at open gym two to three times a week.
“A lot of girls have put in time this summer and have worked pretty hard,” Carson said.
Other than getting some work in at open gym, the varsity players have took part in two team camps this summer other than the home camp at Ottumwa High gym: One at the University of Northern Iowa and another at Iowa State University.
Carson and her girls also will chase a goal that has stubbornly eluded the Bulldog volleyball program since its inception: earning a berth to the Class 4A state tournament.
The Bulldogs first match is at Des Moines North Aug. 30.