Just about every year whether coaches like it or not graduation is more than likely going to decimate almost all of the varsity rosters in the state to some degree, but this time around the Mexico volleyball team had the good fortune to lose just one player to that annual purge, Adria Costley.
While Costley's talents in the middle will be missed as she moves on to play for the Central Missouri University women's basketball team, the Lady Bulldogs only new athletes are a trio of freshman, all of which will be playing for the JV team. This has created a team makeup that's left the varsity with a fair number of veterans at time when the team is coming off a 9-13 overall effort and has improved every season since head coach Shayla Cox took over.
"We don't really have anyone new to varsity. All of our returners have seen some sort of varsity playing time. They may be in some new positions, but not new to the varsity court," said Cox. "Our team will hustle well. We will play every ball with energy, enthusiasm and effort. Those three words are the words our seniors chose for our focus."
Two of the upperclassmen coming back will be Payton Bledsoe in the middle and Megan Azdell on the outside. Complimenting that pair are juniors Katie Paladin, a setter, Savannah Sadler will be on the outside, Chloe Sims does her best work in the middle and working from the right will be Catie Bledsoe. Cox also has the good fortune to be able to lean on sophomore defensive specialists Ciara Patrick and Nayeli Ruiz and Addison McCoy from the outside.
"That's the best record we've had. We're continuing to build our record and we're striving to be over .500 this year. We ended third in the league last year, which is the highest we've finished," Cox said. " (My) overall career record (is) 18 - 48. We were 4-18 our first year and 5-17 our second year. I told the girls when we first got here we won't be good this year or the next. Give it three to five years and if you buy in you'll see success. These girls have done well and are looking to beat last years record."
As for those new freshmen who will be on the JV roster, Emma Nowlin and Bryna Carey are new to the team while Maya Miracle is new to the district. The other freshmen on this team who are continuing from Mexico Middle school include Shelby Kennemore, Kacey Craddock, Emily Nunan, Wyndee Bohr, Lissa Blair, Mya Miller and Rylee Johnson. The final spots on this squad are being occupied by returning JV players junior Shelby Ludovicy and sophomore Hayley Herrera.
"Two main things our team will continue to improve on is serve receive/defense and communication. We've improved tremendously over the last three years, but we're not going to settle. We're going to continue to strive to improve our defensive line to give us our best set up for offense," said Cox. "We have hired Mendie Tutt as an assistant coach We're excited to have Mendie on board. She's already brought so much to this team and will continue to help mold and shape our young ladies."
Another sign that the Lady Bulldogs are moving in the right direction is that for the first time in a long time the squad is going to not only have a varsity and a JV lineup, but a freshman roster, as well. Even though this is a situation inherently littered with its own set of challenges, Cox and her staff feel the rewards outweigh the cost.
"I'm pleased with the continuous rising numbers in girls who are interested in playing volleyball. We decided this year to run three separate teams to help the development of our program," said Cox. "This will give more kids more time on the court with more touches. Helping mold young ladies into successful women when they leave here is the ultimate goal. Helping them improve their volleyball skills and wining games is just icing on the cake. We have a great group and we're very excited."
Now Mexico is getting ready for several preseason events before the regular season eventually catches up to it at the end of the month. Until then the team is just training at the high school, getting ready for what lies ahead.
"We will start with our Jamboree this Saturday at Gary Filbert Court at Mexico High School. We play at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.," Cox said. "Next Thursday we will host our Sports Drink Scrimmage and our first game is Monday the 27th at Southern Boone High School in Ashland. Our first home game will be Thursday, August 30th at 5:30 pm vs. Kirksville. We will play JV followed by varsity. We will only play two games that night as Kirksville doesn't have three teams."