COLUMBIA — After a three-win season last year, the Hickman volleyball team will enter this season with familiar faces but a different mind-set.
“This year we are going to try to work more together as a team,” senior setter Chloe Kome said. “Last year I felt we got sort of a negative attitude. So we are going to try to focus on staying positive this season.”
Kome is one of only three seniors on the team. The Kewpies appeared to rally at the end of last season and won their opener in the Class 4 District 9 tournament for their third victory. But Hickman fell to eventual district champion Hannibal in the semifinals.
“We are a young team, but we have a lot of experience,” coach Greg Gunn said. “At this stage we are just going to have to wait and see how much these girls have improved, and we will go from there.”
Hickman has struggled the past couple of years. Not long ago, the Kewpies were a district powerhouse, winning four district championships from 2003 to 2007.
“Our goal this year is to win districts,” Gunn said. “That is our goal every year, and this season is no exception.”
Winning a district title might be more difficult than before. Helias Catholic and Smith-Cotton, both strong programs, have been added to Hickman’s district. Timberland, which won six matches last year, is now in a different district.
“It’s a tough district, but I don’t think it will be much more difficult,” Gunn said. “Ever since 2000, we have always beefed up our schedule.”
Kome was quick to point out another goal that she has for the team.
“I definitely want to beat Rock Bridge, that is my number one goal,” Kome said. “This is a big rivalry, and it would be huge if we could beat them once before I leave.”
Gunn said he is relying on his three seniors for leadership.
“Chloe, Ali Baxter and Sam Nielson have been huge for us,” Gunn said. “Chloe is our setter; Ali is our libero, which is very important; and Sam is probably our best defensive player.”
Freshman outside hitter Erica Drake plays club volleyball for Club COMO and will be a starter for the Kewpies.
“Erica is a natural, plain and simple,” Gunn said. “I’ve been coaching volleyball here for 17 years, and I think I have started a freshman only three or four times.”
Drake said her teammates at Hickman don’t treat her differently.
“Obviously we want to win,” Drake said. “For me it seems like there is a positive atmosphere. This doesn’t look like a team that only won a couple of games last year.”
Kome agreed with her new teammate.
“My career at Hickman has definitely been a roller coaster,” Kome said. “Last year wasn’t so great, but I think this year is going to be solid."