Panthers volleyball sets sights on state

New coach Andi Pickens excited about young team

Kristin Pierce sets up her teammates during practice at M-CHS. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Kristin Pierce sets up her teammates during practice at M-CHS.

Last season, the Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball team lost several close matches on their way to a 9-15-1 record. This season, the Panthers are hoping to turn things around.

To do so, the Panthers will look for guidance from first year head coach Andi Pickens, who graduated from M-CHS in 2011. A standout high school player who played for Dixie State College and the University of Hawaii at Hilo, Pickens expressed confidence in this year’s team.

“We have two seniors, but we have a pretty young team,” said Pickens. “I’m really excited. I think we’re going to be good this year.”

Figuring to lead this year’s team will be senior outside hitter Naomi Pennecoose, a 1st team all-conference player last season. A multi-faceted player, Pennecoose led the Panthers in kills, digs and blocks last year and hopes to be even better this season.

“My goal is to be a good leader,” said Pennecoose. “Because I made all-conference last year, it’s a priority to make it again this year.”

Also likely to play a key role for the Panthers this season will be junior setter Laurel Chappell, who led M-CHS with 437 assists last season. After a busy summer playing club volleyball, Chappell plans to be even better this year.

Anchoring the middle for M-CHS will be experienced senior Abby Chupp and sophomore Danielle McDonald, who saw limited varsity playing time last season.

“We want to try our hardest,” said Chupp. “One of our goals is to beat Durango.”

Rounding out the Panthers starting lineup will be sophomore opposite Rylee Lindsley, junior outside hitter Kristin Pierce and freshman libero Tyra Pennecoose.

As always, this year’s Panthers team will play a difficult schedule, which includes league matchups against Durango, Grand Junction, Fruita Monument, Montrose and Grand Junction Central. Highlighting the team’s non-conference schedule will be matchups against Monument Valley and Bayfield.

Not intimidated by her team’s challenging schedule however, Pickens said that her team’s goals are high.

“We’re preparing for state in practice and I think we can make it,” said Pickens.

M-CHS will kick off their season at this weekend’s Glenwood Springs Tournament, which runs Aug. 28-30.

“We want to use the (Glenwood) tournament to figure out our team and figure out how to play together,” said Chupp.