Last year the Circle volleyball team came just one match shy of the 4A-I state championship tournament. The Thunderbirds fell to El Dorado in the sub-state championship by a score of 25-20, 25-20. Circle finished second in the AVCTL III with a record of 21-16.

The Thunderbirds are returning a solid core from a season ago, and will feature three all-league returners. This led to a No. 7 ranking in class 4A in the Kansas Vollyball Association preseason rankings.

Senior setter Jessie Nibarger was All-league as a sophomore and junior.

“In Jessie, we have a setter with two years of varsity experience who's doing a great job running our offense and leading our team,” said head coach Shelly Nibarger.

Junior hitters Shelby Reeder and Mallory Cowman were both All-league as sophomores last season.

Senior Alicia Banuelos, Jordan Hammer, and Raegen Galloway all have plenty of varsity experience coming into this season. Banuelos will play the libero position for the Thunderbirds this season.

According to Nibarger, the T-Birds biggest strength will be their hitting.

“We have the potential to have five strong, athletic hitters in our line-up this season,” said Nibarger.

“How well we do ultimately will depend on how well we serve-receive.”

The T-Birds have been able to build chemistry this summer, and Nibarger believes this will contribute to their success in the fall.

“These players played over 25 matches together in June and early July. Because of this, I feel like we're ahead of schedule in our skill development and team play. I'm excited about the potential this team has.”

Circle will open their season on Tuesday, August 28 with a triangular at home against El Dorado and Augusta.

This season, schools will no longer be split into 4A-I and 4A-II due to the reclassification. The 4A state tournament will be played at Hutchinson Community College on Oct. 26-27.