BUHLER, Kan.—When Buhler pushed eventual Class 4A state volleyball runner-up McPherson, coach Kara Voss saw progress in last year's substate tournament.
McPherson ended Buhler's 16-22 season last year with a 25-23, 25-10 semifinal victory.
With four experienced seniors and a starter returning from an injury, Voss expects the Crusaders' fortunes to continue to rise in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League.
First-team Ark Valley Chisholm Trail all-league outside hitter Josie Williams and honorable mention all-league McKenna Bessmer and Sierra Castor headline the Crusaders.
"We feel we'll be competitive for league and post-season because that McPherson match proves they can play with anybody," Voss said. "We have to learn how to push to get over the hump and beat those teams when it counts."
The 5-11 Williams owns the school record for most kills in a match and most kills in a season with 405 to go with 54 blocks.
Outside hitter McKenna Bessmer (387 kills, 51 blocks) and 5-10 middle hitter Cailyn Bessmer (346 kills, 102 blocks) are other returning starters that comprise a solid frontline. Cailyn shares the school record for most blocks in a match.
Defensive leader Sierra Castor served 96 percent and shares the school record for most digs in a season.
"Sierra has worked to improve quite a bit and she has shown her passing us much better this year," Voss said.
Voss said the Crusaders' solid frontline will lead an attacking style.
"We want to use our hitting strength. Having several girls who can attack at the net gives you an advantage and allows you to put pressure on the other team," Voss said. "Our main goal is stay confident and never back down. We want to use our experience and leadership."
Voss said the Crusaders must take the next step and beat the top-caliber teams.
"It's more of a mental hurdle more than anything," she said.
Castro will lead the team's emphasis on executing the passing game.
"We stress being a strong passing team and that's what we work on," she said. "You can't be a strong hitting team if you don't pass, set and hit. Our goal is to improve our passing game.
There is always room for improvement."
The Crusaders receive a big boost because senior Macki Pankratz returns after a season-ending knee injury the weekend before the 2011 season started.
"Macki will return to the starting line-up and run the offense as our setter," Voss said. "Macki's knowledge and appreciation of the game will be added strength to the team."
Other athletes to watch are juniors Kaley Dick and Laura Pankratz, sophomore Loryn Boll and 6-0 freshman Traeleas Jackson. Assistant coaches are Shane Morton and Allison Gordon.
"The team has been putting lots of time in the gym and hopes to get off to a great start," Voss said. "Every player has invested time during the summer to get better, whether it's weight work or individual work."
The Crusaders begin the season Saturday with the AVCTL Pre-Season Tournament at Hutchinson High.
"Our league provides us with great competition and our tournaments at Hutchinson and Newton against 5A and 6A teams shows us what we need to work on," Voss said. "The girls have high expectations and are motivated to work for a good season."