KNOXVILLE — Head coach Mollie Keitges is just nine wins away from number 100 as she enters her sixth season in charge of the Panthers, who come off a regional final appearance and their fourth straight South Central Conference title in 2020.
The Panthers will have to replace some big-time production players as they lose four of their five all-conference selections from last year.
That one all-conference returnee is Brittany Bacorn, who was a second team pick after leading the team with 250 kills along with 303 digs, 17 blocks and 33 aces as a freshman. The sophomore should figure to be one of the top outside hitters again this year.
Joining Bacorn on the outside will be junior Melanie Sullivan (35 kills in 2020) and sophomore Ciara Heffron (4 kills in 2020).
Knoxville should be strong defensively at the net with senior middle blockers Charlee Heffron (53 kills and 23 blocks) and Abby Wadle (44 kills and 17 blocks) returning to the mix with sophomore newcomer Ella Breazeale fighting for time there as well.
Junior Emma Dunkin was a defensive specialist but figures to move into the setter role this season.
“Our strength will be defense,” Keitges said. “This crew is a scrappy, hard working bunch. Our challenge is really going to be finding the best combination to put on the floor and for the girls to play clean, smart volleyball.”
Knoxville was a win away from state, going 27-8 in 2020 while capturing their fourth straight conference title. The SCC looks like they should give the Panthers a run for their money as top dog as Knoxville integrates some new players into bigger roles.
“We start out with a super tough quad at Carlisle with Osky and Ottumwa,” Keitges said. “This is a great season opener to really let us identify where we stand. I think the South Central Conference looks to be much improved and a big challenge for us this year. EBF, Davis County and Albia are all much improved and will be tough games for us.”