The Maplewood Richmond Heights volleyball team went 22-11 last year, a vast improvement from its 12-14 mark in 2009 and 4-21 in the 2008 season.
Hitter Brandi Allen had a lot to do with that turnaround, and the Blue Devils are facing this season without Allen.
“Brandi was great at both offense and defense, and we will feel her absence in both areas,” head coach Cheryl Carmon said. Carmon added that they won’t be using a libero—a type of defensive specialist—this season.
She is looking for sophomore Mariah Russell to be the team’s biggest hitter and leader. Russell played varsity as a freshman last year.
“She wants to go to college on a volleyball scholarship, so she’s really been working hard and she’s turned into a really hard hitter,” Carmon said.
“She’s really going to step up and replace, I don’t want to say replace Brandi (Allen), but help us fill Brandi’s shoes,” Carmon said. “Because we really will miss her on the team.”
Carmon expects senior Brittney Poole, the team’s setter, to step up and lead this year too. It’s her third year on varsity.
Carmon has rearranged her offense, moving senior Amber Sinclair from middle hitter to the outside hitter position.
“She also went to a lot of camps and has been working a lot on volleyball this summer,” Carmon said. “So, I look for her to be a big part of the team.”
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Carmon said she’s returning five starters and hasn’t decided yet who her sixth starter will be. Hannah Hayden, Alex Ford and Allison Schott are three girls coming up from junior varsity and each is vying for the spot.
“It may be that they rotate it out for a while, until I see who’s the best fit,” Carmon said. “Because all three of them have really been dedicated to volleyball this summer, and have been showing me a lot of improvement.”
Carmon said she originally was only going to take 12 players on varsity because the team had only 12 school-issued uniforms. But she decided to order three more uniform tops and have the girls pay for them.
“Usually, I would have had to make cuts, and I just didn’t want to have to do that because all of them can contribute in some way,” she said.
Volleyball has only six regular-season home games this year, all against conference teams. MRH will be hosting the district tournament, however. All of the Blue Devils nonconference games are away. The complete schedule is available on STLHighSchoolSports.net.
The Blue Devils start with a tournament at Hancock on Aug. 30, then will play in the Brentwood tournament after that. They'll head to a Crossroads tournament later in the season.
Carmon also talked about Brentwood, which beat MRH in the district finals last year.
“Always our nemesis,” Carmon said. “We beat them a few sets last year, never a full game. So, of course it’s my goal to go out and beat Brentwood a game.
“It is kind of a collective goal,” she said. “It’s everybody else in the conference’s goal. Brentwood kind of has a big target on their back. Because they are so good, and they’re just so relentless with their skill … I can’t make any predictions. I know we’ll be top two in districts.”
Carmon said her MRH girls have lots of talent and heart.
“They love the game. They want to beat Brentwood just as much as I do.”