T-Birds look to take another step forward
After more than quadrupling the number of wins from the previous season, the Cloud County Community College volleyball team is looking to take another step forward.
With Deb Monzon returning as the coach, Cloud County went from 4-28 in 2017 to 17-17 last year.
Now in her second year of her second go-around, Monzon has a roster filled with players she recruited and believes the Thunderbirds can continue to make strides.
“It feels different for me already because I feel like I have my own kids,” Monzon said.
Monzon believes that the program has added talent and depth, and now it is a matter of developing a winning attitude.
“We have got some talent, we have got some depth, now it is just that mental game of trying to establish back that winning tradition,” Monzon said.
Cloud County opens the season at the Southeast (Neb.) Community College tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The 13-player roster includes five returning sophomores, a sophomore transfer and seven freshmen.
Headlining the list of returnees is 6-1 outside hitter Dayana Chara from Cartegena, Colombia, who earned All-Jayhawk Conference honors as a freshman.
Chara led the T-Birds in kills with 334, which is the second most in school history since the modern scoring format was established.
“She has a lot of high expectations, and we probably do too. She is kind of who we are looking for to be that leader on the floor,” Monzon said.
Cloud County also returns Willow Hunt, Maria Bustos, Haven Hamilton and Alisyn Davis.
Hunt is a 5-4 libero/defensive specialist from Plainville who saw extensive playing time as a freshman.
The 6-2 Bustos from Cartagena, Colombia, played primarily in the middle last season but will be used more on the right side this year.
“I think we can utilize her better there,” Monzon said.
Hamilton is a 6-0 outside hitter/middle blocker from Stockton who started in a majority of the matches as a freshman.
“If we can get her to be consistent. There were two or three games last year where they couldn’t stop her. When she is on, she is hard to stop,” Monzon said.
Davis, a 5-9 right side hitter from Greensburg will be battling for more playing time.
“She worked hard in the spring and improved her passing and serving skills,” Monzon said.
Cloud County added sophomore Mandi Spencer, a 5-9 libero/defensive specialist from Wichita who transferred in from Dodge City Community College.
“She has tremendous passing skills,” Monzon said.
Monzon will be looking to the incoming freshman class to find replacements for the two setters she lost from last season in Laken Schroeder and Cammie Miller.
“One thing we really needed this year was setting, because we lost all of it from last year,” Monzon said.
Jaycee Burghart, 5-10, McPherson, and Riley Bontrager, 5-10, Nemaha Central High School, will handle the setting duties for the T-Birds.
“Both come from excellent programs so they have been coached well. They come to us with different skill packages,” Monzon said, “We will use them both. I see them both playing all year.”
Monzon said that she expects 6-0 outside hitter Emelys Martinez, Cartagena, Columbia; 6-0 outside hitter/middle blocker Mary Broxterman, Royal Valley High School; and 6-0 middle blocker Geraldyn Palacios, Medilin, Colombia, to immediately see a lot of playing time.
Martinez joined the program second semester of last school year.
Also battling for playing time are freshmen Grace Messenger, 5-10, outside/right side, Clay Center, Neb. and Delaney Herold, 5-8, outside/right side, Sylvan Grove.
After finishing 3-7 last season, the T-Birds open play in the very difficult Jayhawk Conference East Division at Cowley Community College on September 11.
The conference includes Coffeyville Community College, which won a second straight NJCAA Division II title last season, and Johnson County Community College, which finished third.
“If our defensive comes around, offensively there is no doubt in my mind that we could win conference,” Monzon said.