Oatman has BHS volleyball ready
By Ben Knoll
Signal Sports Writer
After an amazing season last year in which the volleyball team finished just shy of a state championship, the next chapter for Baldwin High School volleyball is about to be written.
The varsity volleyball team kicks off its season next week, when the Bulldogs will take their first step toward defending their Frontier League title.
The road to the title won't be easy, though. Last year's varsity team was almost completely made up of seniors, including Emily Brown, who won just about every honor possible on her way to leading the team to Salina. She will play this year at the University of Kansas.
But Brown, along with all the other talented seniors, are all gone now. With only one varsity player from last year returning for this season, it is up to some new faces to lead the volleyball squad.
Head coach Jill Brown also left the program with her daughter, leaving BHS to replace the coach along with the senior class. Jill Brown wanted to be able to follow her daughter's college career.
Luckily, Baldwin High found another very qualified coach in Jim Oatman. Oatman already has coaching experience, including a stint as head coach of the Baldwin High volleyball team before Brown took over.
Oatman is excited for the season, but realizes that it won't be easy.
"We lost a ton of talent off last year's team, that's pretty obvious," said Oatman. "Because of Katelyn's (Miles) knee injuries, we've only got one player off last year's varsity team returning. It's going to be tough at first, but we've got some talented classes, and I think after the first half of the season we could surprise some people."
Asked if he is feeling any pressure because of the program's great success last year, Oatman is upfront with his reply.
"I think that the people around the program know that we lost a lot of talent and that this is a rebuilding year for us," Oatman said. "I'm not feeling any pressure, because I know that everyone realizes that."
The key for a young team, especially one in which most of the members are experiencing the next level of play for the first time, is coming together as a team during practice.
Junior Kelsey Heckathorne reported good news from the early practice sessions.
"So far, I think we've been playing pretty well in practice and coming together as a team," said Heckathorne. "It's tough to play with teammates that you haven't played with much before. I think we'll get better as the season goes along and hopefully become a pretty good team."
Fellow junior Charley Jo Schwartz agreed.
"Our practices so far have been pretty good. I think that we are getting a lot of good work done," said Schwartz. "Everyone is getting to know each other and work together as a team."
Senior Kara Everett also had a positive outlook on the upcoming season.
"I think we'll have a good team," said Everett. "We've had good practices, and I think we're going to have a successful season."
The BHS varsity volleyball team will have its first test of the season Tuesday, when the Bulldogs travel to Bonner Springs.