The School of the Ozarks volleyball team has been a model of consistency throughout its varsity history.
The Patriots started their full-time varsity program in 2013, and in the last six seasons, have never won fewer than 20 matches in a season. They’ve never lost more than nine.
S of O has averaged a hair over 23 wins per season, claimed the Class 1 District 7 championship in 2017 and dropped a three-set heartbreaker to Blue Eye in the district finals last fall.
While the Patriots are losing a talented senior class that included five strong contributors – including All-Mark Twain Conference and all-area selections Lucy Watson and Olivia Vinton – there’s not a sense of panic around the team going into this season.
“We do feel like we’re in a position where we have classes coming up to fill ranks,” coach Charlie Warfield said. “Since we opened the junior high, we are getting players coming up that we’ve seen and know about.
“That’s been really good for us.”
Gone are the 145 kills and 153 digs from Vinton, same with the 445 assists and 385 digs turned in by Watson last season.
But seeing how each team grows, matures and finds its way is a rewarding part of the process for Warfield.
“We won’t know exactly every little detail until we get into the season,” he said. “Sometimes a year is marked by injury and overcoming. Sometimes it’s that come-from-behind underdog feel, and other times you feel like you’re the team to beat, and there’s energy around that, too.”
The cupboard is far from bare for Warfield and the S of O program.
Seniors Molly Sparks and Jessica Barber return, ready to fill the leadership roles after enjoying strong junior campaigns.
“They have the most experience on the varsity floor, and you can’t really replicate that,” Warfield said. “It’s hard to feel that way without having that time on the floor. That’s one of the big challenges in bringing in new people, is getting that mixed in with the experience.
“Other than that, they are two of our most skilled players, they bring a lot of confidence to our team. They are great leaders, and we’re looking for big seasons from them.”
Barber had 144 kills, 258 assists and 208 digs last season, while Sparks added 81 kills, 186 assists and 130 digs.
School of the Ozarks volleyball schedule
Aug. 30: Spokane
Sept. 3: at Niangua
Sept. 5: at Bradleyville
Sept. 7: School of the Ozarks Patriot Invitational
Sept. 10: at Forsyth
Sept. 12: Ash Grove
Sept. 17: Everton
Sept. 19: Blue Eye
Sept. 20: Fordland
Sept. 24: Hurley
Sept. 26: at Springfield Catholic
Sept. 28: Strafford Volleyfest
Oct. 1: at Galena
Oct. 3: at New Covenant Academy
Oct. 7: Chadwick
Oct. 12: Mark Twain Conference Tournament
Oct. 15: Billings
Oct. 21: at Miller
Oct. 22: Sparta