Varsity members of the 2015 Roxana Shells pose inside Larry Milazzo Gymnasium. In front from left to right are: Kara Meyer, senior, Taylor Westfall, junior, Niah Bevolo, junior and Brittany Alexander, sophomore. Back from left to right are: Taylor Jackson, freshman, Keely Reardon, senior, Braeden Lackey, sophomore, Jordan DiPaolo, senior and Abby Palen, junior. Not pictured is Katie Herndon, senior.
It’s a relatively new lineup for the Roxana High volleyball team this season. However, the Shells are seeking to retain their old ways.
Mainly, that’s about winning.
Roxana, which will wrap up its season-opening tournament Saturday, has strung together 43 wins the past two seasons, including its first regional championship in 10 years in 2013. The Shells went 19-13 in 2014.
Yet last season is gone and veteran coach Mike McKinney, starting his 21st season in guiding the Shells, is rolling up his sleeves and going to work.
“We lost a lot of seniors –eight of them – from last year,” said McKinney, who previously coached at Morrisonville. “So we have open spots on the team and there’s a lot of competition among the players.”
That’s a healthy sign, he said.
“We have hungry kids,” McKinney said. “We might not have a lot of quantity, but we have lots of quality.
“I’m eager and excited about this season and so are the kids.”
Gone are top talents such as Bailey McGuire, Maddy Sheraka and Erica Sheets among others. McGuire is continuing her volleyball career at Lewis and Clark Community College. Sheraka, the all-time leading girls’ basketball point producer, is playing her favorite sport at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
“We graduated some talented players and we won’t have the height that we had last season,” McKinney said. “But I think we will play hard and our goal is to make every match competitive.”
Roxana expected to find out plenty about itself in its own tournament. The Shells then dive into South Central Conference play on Tuesday when they entertain Hillsboro.
McKinney figures Southwestern and Pana could be two of the teams battling for the conference championship. In addition, Carlinville is a perennial SCC powerhouse.
“I really don’t know how we will do in the conference,” he said. “Most of our varsity team is made up of players who were JV players for us last year. When the Alton tournament is done (Sept. 12) and we have played about 12 times, then I will be able to better figure out how we will be this season.”
Four seniors should lead the way for the Shells. They are: 5-foot-4 libero Keely Reardon, 5-5 outside hitter Kara Meyer, 5-2 defensive specialist Katie Herndon and 5-7 outside hitter Jordan DiPaolo.
Niah Bevolo, a 5-4 junior setter, also is important in the Shells’ scheme of things. So is junior Taylor Westfall, a 5-8 junior middle hitter.
“Meyer and Bevolo started for us last year, while Reardon and Westfall also got playing time,” McKinney said.
Abby Palen, a 5-6 junior and outside hitter, is another player McKinney is leaning on for big things. The same goes for 5-3 sophomore setter Brittany Alexander, 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Braeden Lackey and 5-7 freshman outside hitter Taylor Jackson.
“Our strength should be our teamwork and hustle,” McKinney said. “We don’t have much height, so we will have to play as a team. When you don’t have size, you have to make it up with good defense.”
It’s a nine-game SCC slate awaiting the Shells. They also are cast in tournaments at Morrisonville (Sept. 30, Oct. 3) and at Red Bud (Oct. 10). Roxana also has nonconference dates with Bunker Hill (Sept. 8), Civic Memorial (Sept. 14), East Alton-Wood River (Sept. 15), Marquette Catholic (Oct. 8) and Metro East Lutheran (Oct. 21).
Quick Hits/2015 Outlook
Team: Roxana Shells
Head Coach: Mike McKinney
Conference: South Central
2014 Record: 19-13
Career record: 21 years at Roxana
Last playoff: 2014 Class 3A Regional semifinals
Name HT POS
Jordan DiPaolo 5-7 OH
Katie Herndon 5-2 DS
Kara Meyer 5-5 OH
Keely Reardon 5-4 Libero
Niah Bevolo 5-4 S
Abby Palen 5-6 OH
Taylor Westfall 5-8 MH
Brittany Alexander 5-3 S
Braeden Lackey 5-10 MH
Taylor Jackson 5-7 OH
Aug. 29, 8:30 a.m. vs. Roxana Tournament
Sept. 1, 6 p.m. vs. Hillsboro*
Sept. 3, 6 p.m. at Vandalia*
Sept. 8, 6 p.m. at Bunker Hill
Sept. 10, 6 p.m. vs. Greenville*
Sept. 11-12, TBA at Alton Invitational
Sept. 14, 5 p.m. at CM
Sept. 15, 6 p.m. at EA-WR
Sept. 17, 6 p.m. vs. Litchfield*
Sept. 22, 6 p.m. at Carlinville*
Sept. 29, 6 p.m. vs. Southwestern*
Sept. 30, Oct. 3, TBA Morrisonville Tournament
Oct. 5, 6 p.m. vs. Pana*
Oct. 7, 6 p.m. vs. Staunton*
Oct. 8, 6 p.m. vs. Marquette Catholic
Oct. 10, 9 a.m. Red Bud Tournament
Oct. 15, 6 p.m. at Southwestern*
Oct. 21, 5 p.m. at Metro East Lutheran
Oct. 22, 6 p.m. vs. Gillespie*
*Denotes conference games