While it might not be the first time, El Reno High School head volleyball coach Kristen Koehler is hard pressed to remember a season in which she did not have a senior player on her roster.
That is until 2019.
El Reno kicked off practices last week with 24 players ninth grade and above but none are older than the six juniors on the roster.
“I might have had a season in those first few years that we did not have a senior but I’m not sure. This actually may be my first year without one,” said Koehler.
Now entering her 15th season as the Indians head coach, Koehler is not worried that she will not have a senior on the team.
“I’m really excited about it because we are not lacking in leadership. I’ve got a good group of leaders even though they are not seniors.
“This is not a surprise and we knew that we did not have anyone on grade level for the class of 2020,” said Koehler.
Not having a senior also means Koehler will have two seasons to mold a squad without having any fall-off due to graduation.
“We knew this was coming but it also means we have two years of pretty much the same girls and we can mold the team to the way we want it,” said Koehler.
El Reno was late in starting practices due to the recent All-State games in which the Indians had their second straight player on the West squad.
However, after five workouts, Koehler feels her squad is back on track.
“The practices have been going really well,” said Koehler.
In fact, she feels there is little drop-off from the last time the players were all together at the end of June in the Chickasha Summer League.
“We had a rough start to our summer league but we ended up winning the postseason tourney and we seem to have just progressed from there.
“I think with winning that tourney we learned what we can do and we have picked up from there without any drop-off at all,” said Koehler.
Despite losing both starting blockers and the offense and defensive prowess of the Cerne twins, Koehler says there is a team bond among younger players.
“The cohesiveness of the team is really well. Even our freshmen have been with us all summer and it feels like one team. It’s not like we are having to teach the basics to anyone. Practice has been really productive and we are getting into the more intense part of what we need to be doing to get ready for matches,” said Koehler.
El Reno will charge into the season with 10 sophomores, eight freshmen and six juniors. Players like Riley Connor, Madison Nicholson, Avery Blount and Cassie Avendano all saw time on varsity a year ago.
“Having no seniors and a few returning players, it’s a blank slate. With the group we have they are looking for their day to be leaders and they are hungry and willing to learn new things,” said Koehler.
El Reno will not have any preseason scrimmages and will open up the 2019 campaign with a road triangular at Christian Heritage Academy along with Victory Christian.
The Indians home tourney is a day later.