By BRETT MARSHALL
Halfway through her first season as the head volleyball coach at Satanta High School, Ashton Wenta finally saw the progress that she had been trying to impart to her new team in 2009.
A year later, with four returning starters from an 18-17 team that lost in the first round of the Class 1A sub-state, Wenta is looking for bigger and better things from her Lady Indians.
Their 2010 season begins Saturday when they host their own eight-team Satanta Invitational, with pool play scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Satanta High School's gymnasium.
"We've got a lot of experience back, and with that goes higher expectations," Wenta said. "We've got lots of seniors, and I think the girls are looking forward to a very good year."
Heading the list of her returners is 5-9 hitter Aubree Young, just one of two underclassmen to make The Telegram's All-Area first team in 2009. She will be joined by 5-7 hitter/setter Megan Kuehler, 5-5 hitter Kelsey Blair and 5-3 setter Minerva Gonzalez as the senior leaders.
"I'm really excited, but my main thing is I hope we're not overconfident," Wenta said. "There are a number of other good teams in the area, and we just have to work to keep getting better."
Wenta was bolstered at the start of preseason by the presence of senior Stephanie Caro, an outside hitter, who sat out her sophomore and junior seasons. She was a mainstay with the Satanta girls basketball team last season.
Deerfield, Dighton, Satanta and South Central will comprise pool A while Kiowa County (Greensburg, Haviland, Mullinville) will be joined by Spearville, Stanton County and Sublette in pool B. Upon completion of those round-robins, the No. 1 teams of each pool will play the No. 2 teams and those winners will advance to the tournament finals, scheduled for 6 p.m.
Deerfield's Bridget Crandall will lead the Lady Spartans. The junior earned honorable mention all-area honors a year ago.
"We're young and energetic," said Deerfield first-year coach Lisa Bowser. "It will be a rebuilding year, and we'll work on developing consistency."
One of the Lady Spartans' top seniors a year ago, Yassmin Soto, now is playing at Garden City Community College.
Stanton County's Gylee Martin, a 5-6 senior left hitter, will be the top returner for Stanton County coach Andrea Jones, whose team advanced to the Class 2A sub-state final a year ago before falling to Spearville. The Lady Trojans finished with a 16-19 record. Martin was a Telegram honorable mention all-area pick her junior year.
"Our team should do very well serving and passing this year," Jones said. "Gylee should be a very dominant outside hitter for us. As always, we will probably lack in blocking."
Dighton coach Cindi Cramer, who has guided the Lady Hornets to a 44-22 in three seasons, lost her oldest daughter, Kaylee, who graduated and is now at Pratt Community College. She was an honorable mention all-area selection after coming back from ACL surgery to her knee that was injured at the end of her junior season in basketball.
"We have a solid core of returning varsity players," Cramer said. "This will enable them to handle situations and communicate well with one another. Serving is another strength to this team."
Her leading returner is 5-11 senior Emily Torson, an outside hitter, and she is joined by seniors Allie Chapman (5-8 middle hitter) and Alex Conine (5-9 middle hitter).
"I feel with our height that we should be a strong blocking team, as well," Cramer said.