The Wildcats will face Grace College on Friday at 2:30 p.m., and Morningside at 8:30 p.m. Then they face Valley City State on Saturday at 11 a.m., and Dakota Wesleyan at 3 p.m.
Graduating seven seniors from a conference championship team would be a cause for concern for most volleyball coaches.
But longtime Baker coach Kathy Allen views 2012 as an opportunity for the handful of returning players and several newcomers to form their own identity, building on a Wildcat tradition.
“This is a winning program,” said Allen, who has compiled a 312-174 career record entering her 15th season leading the Wildcats. “I recruit kids who want to continue the winning tradition. I expect a lot of hard work.”
Allen guided the Wildcats last season to a 26-11 overall record, including a 10-0 run in the Heart of America Athletic Conference regular season. Baker reeled off 15 consecutive wins before falling to MidAmerica Nazarene in the HAAC tournament championship at the Collins Center.
Senior setter Jana Boss, an all-HAAC first-team performer last season, and senior outside hitter Savannah Smith, a second-team pick, are the key returners from last year’s successful squad. Boss, who averaged 8.7 assists per set last fall, is a two-time conference setter of the year.
“She’s an athlete through and through, probably one of most athletic players on the team,” Allen said. “She has a good handle on the game.”
As a junior, Smith ranked second on the team with 310 kills.
“She can jump through the gym and has one of the fastest arms I’ve ever seen,” Allen said.
Allen expects junior outside hitter Jasmyn Turner and sophomore outside hitter Taryn Brees to contribute.
Transfer Crystal Simon, outside hitter, is one of the top newcomers to keep an eye on.
“I’m really happy with our recruiting class,” Allen said. “There is some real talent and size there.”
Baker will open the home portion of its schedule on Friday, Sept. 6 as they host William Woods University at 7 p.m.