The Lady Indians won the District 3-6A championship in 2016 and advanced to the regional semifinals — and they’re returning five starters.
For first-year Bell coach Jinni Walker, following in the footsteps of Vickie Griffin is daunting, but she believes she’s ready to establish her own tradition.
“I continue to communicate and seek advice from Griff often,” Walker said. “She is a dear, dear friend and mentor. One of the main things she has taught me is that I have to find and utilize my own coaching style and my own philosophies but respect tradition.
“Priority number one is our young ladies — period. It has to be about them. For 2017, we want our athletes to know that when all is said and done, they have put everything they have into this team, they represented L. D. Bell with class and pride, and they never gave up.”
Walker said there is no doubt in her mind that Keller will present a real challenge for her girls, but added that her team is ready to get off to a good start.
“Losing Cameryn Zahradnik definitely leaves big shoes to fill,” Walker said. “But with veteran coach Jamie Siegel at the helm, I’m sure she has Cam’s replacement ready to go. Our Blue Raiders are ready to get this volleyball season underway.
“In our match against Keller, and really against any opponent this year, the expectation is that we compete, we are cohesive and we give our best effort. I love this team — we are playing to win — the young women on our team are all in.”
Bell returns setter Sophie Rodgers, a four-year starter who finished 2016 with 857 assists, 44 aces and 275 digs, whom she expects to lead the way for the Lady Raiders this season.
Libero Tessa Glick finished 2016 with 467 digs and Walker said Glick “elevates those around her.”
Opposite/Setter Bella Burns finished 2016 with 442 digs playing only three rotations of defense for most of the season.
Walker said she also expects outside hitter Sydney Williams to have a “redemption year” in 2017.
“She tore her ACL and MCL last season,” Walker said. “With a tremendous work ethic and an extremely positive attitude, Sydney has come back stronger than before. She will build on the 172 kills from last season, playing on the outside with confidence, power and positivity.”
Keller coach Siegel could not be reached.