Panthers coach Mark Morrison has five returners back from last year’s 16-10-3 teams.
Standout senior Mya Young is gone but the Panthers have a talent core back in seniors Abby Wright, senior defensive specialist Jordan Gentry, senior defensive specialist Jill Huser, senior setter Savannah Sellers, senior libero Mandie Herron and senior Valerie Overton.
“I think the strength of this team is going to be just the flat out the consistency in every position,” Morrison said. “We don’t really lose much and out [of the rotation] as we rotate.”
Morrison also likes the drive and determination of this group as well.
“This group has more grit than I’ve ever seen,” Morrison said. “They are willing to sell out on every single play. Especially my younger players. They are will to get floor burns and I almost have to tell them not to do it so much in practice because we don’t need anybody getting hurt.”
Gentry and sophomore setter Abby King will run the offense from the setter position, which is an area that the Panthers are looking to shore up as the season opener approaches in just weeks.
“We have two setters with a senor setter and a younger setter and it’s just consistency with them right now,” Morrison said. “We’re really working on that timing and communication with new setters and new hitters, and just really working on repetition and consistency and putting the ball where our hitters want it.”
Defensively, Morrison believes the Panthers will be very tough defending opposing serves and rallies in matches this season.
“We’ll probably have one of the strongest defenses in our program that we’ve ever seen,” Morrison said.
Among the newcomers that are expected to contribute, sophomore outside hitter Kilee McGee, and junior Kennedy Janes.
“Kennedy is a phenomenal passer and a phenomenal athlete and she just makes everything look effortless,” Morrison said.
After finishing behind Timberland and Washington last season, Zumwalt North believes it is ready to challenge for its second conference championship in Morrison’s third year as a coach.
“The conference is not as dominant as with the Washington schools as it has been in the past and I would say we’re looking for a conference title,” Morrison said.
Zumwalt North opens the season at St. Charles on Sept. 3 with a nonconference match at 5:15 p.m.