For the Douglass Bulldogs volleyball team, getting to State is the goal every year. And they’ve achieved that goal several times the past few seasons and even brought back some hardware.
Usually a coach is one of the top reasons for that. Coach Leanna Braddy proves she fits that mold by maintaining a high level of play while mixing in several new players to replace stud players every year.
But that’s not what she would tell you.
“I honestly believe it has nothing to do with me,” Braddy said. “The success is due to the players putting in the work in the off season. Things have changed over the years with club and coaches being able to have contact in the summer time. The most successful we've been is when the players attend everything that is offered to them. Hopefully, the commitment and hard work keeps continuing!”
Indeed, now that the Bulldogs have tasted State, they’ll do whatever it takes to get back there.
“That was such an exhilarating experience,” junior Katelyn Moore said about State. “That’s something I want to do for the next two years. And I definitely think that, even though we lost a lot of people, we can do it, because everyone on this team has the drive.”
Senior Reece Cochran has bought in to that mentality and committed herself to the team. She joined every single summer event and has worked hard to be a leader during practices.
“I expect myself to always get better. Last year I just went with the flow,” Cochran said, “but this year I’m like, ‘It’s real.’ I need to show that I’m the older person and be a leader on my team.”
Cochran will be a key hitter with her 5-foot-11 frame. She had 107 kills last year, but expects that number to be much higher this year. She’s not going to be afraid to call for the ball more often. She also wants to be a better all-around player. For example, she said she is working hard to expand her passing game. During practices, she goes to multiple stations, not just the hitting ones.
Senior Kenlee Martin really came into her own last year. Now as a senior, she’ll be a big reason for the Bulldogs’ success. Martin, the team’s libero, finished with a high .959 efficiency percentage and had 431 digs and 67 aces last season.
“Kenlee does an amazing job of passing and digging, which helps our offense to execute our plays,” Braddy said.
It’s no secret that Moore is not only one of the best players in the Central Plains League and even in Class 3A, but she’s one of the most prolific hitters in the entire state. Moore finished with a whopping 423 kills as well as 93 aces and 340 digs on way to being named Second Team All-State in 3A. Brandy told a story about a scorekeeper who, after a match last year, asked where Moore committed to play college, not knowing that Moore was only a sophomore.
No, Moore still has two years to crush the ball against high school foes. But there’s so much to her, especially now that she’s an upperclassmen and one of the Bulldogs’ most seasoned players. One of the biggest ways she wants to improve as a leader is with her verbal communication with her teammates, whether during matches or practice.
“Most of the time when girls stand out, it’s because they’re good, yeah, but you hear people talking, and that’s who you see as a leader,” Moore said.
The Bulldogs have very verbal practices, and with good reason, too. Moore helps encourage her teammates to to keep moving hard, even between drills, or just being quiet and listening when Braddy is talking.
“Everyone’s talking most of the time, because if we’re not, we do 1-minutes, which are punishments you don’t want to have to do,” Moore said with a laugh. “It’s so much running and getting low.”
Moore is a ridiculously talented, gifted athlete with incredible hops and a nasty jump serve. Teams will have no choice but to hone in on stopping her, and even that won’t be enough to stop her most of the time. But Moore still has plenty of things she wants to improve.
“Definitely working with my setters on where I need the ball,” Moore said, “and playing smarter and not just harder sometimes. Finding spots instead of just pounding the ball every time.”
Douglass’ only other returning starter is Jansyn Schamahorn, a junior middle blocker who had 48 blocks last year to go with her 73 kills. She will see an increased role and could be a surprising player for the Bulldogs. She, Cochran and Shelby Little will lead the way in the blocking department.
The Bulldogs have a lot of question marks after losing their top blocker and setter from last year. But they are confident the younger players will be able to step into their role and contribute at a high level. Consistency will be a big key in that.
“I think we have what it takes. We just need to be able to go through a whole game and not slack off. I think we’ve had that problem before, but this year we’re striving to go the10
“We want them to play smart,” Braddy said of her setters, “see where the blockers are set up. Are they cheating to Katelyn? Then utilize that.”
Brandy said she doesn’t want the offense to be too predictable, so running other plays will be key, and other hitters will have to keep the offense more balanced.
The Bulldogs’ varsity squad starts its season Aug. 29 at West Elk.