Head coach Kathy Allen enters her 16th season leading the Wildcats. Despite the loss of two HAAC first-team all-conference players in graduated seniors Savannah Smith and Jana Boss, Allen is very optimistic with her squad.
"I feel like we have a good balance of players this year," said Allen. "We have a lot of strong returners coming back. But we also lost a few strong players, so we have brought in some transfers and we will have a new setter this year. I am looking forward to seeing the mix of players and how we work together."
Coach Allen will return one of the strongest young players in the country in Danielle French, the 2012 HAAC freshman of the year. French was the only freshman named to the first-team all-conference team after a season in which she played in all 119 sets for the Wildcats and collected 250 kills, averaging 2.10 kills per set.
The Overland Park, Kan., native led Baker with 166 total blocks and 27 solo blocks and 139 block assists.
Baker will also return second-team all-conference libero Renata Dill and Jasmyn Turner, who received honorable mention for the all-HAAC team. Fellow senior Crystal Simon is also back for Coach Allen. Simon was second on the team in kills last season with 275. All three seniors will be key to Baker's 2013 success.
"We've got some strong seniors coming back in Jasmyn Turner and Crystal Simon," Allen said. "They should be able to hold down the outside for us. Of course, Renata will be back for us and will take care of the back row at the libero spot. Danielle French returns after her strong freshman season. She should again be strong in the middle.
"We also have sophomore Shannon Bond joining French in the middle, so I feel like we have some strong kids coming back."
Coach Allen and her coaching staff bring in six newcomers, including three players transferring in from Johnson County Community College, as libero Sara Slater, middle hitter Shannon McCarty and middle hitter Perri Tucker join the squad.
Hannah Bettge will have the challenge of taking over the setter spot for Baker after Boss held that spot for four years. But Coach Allen feels like Bettge and the rest of the newcomers will be up for the challenge.
"It was a great recruiting year for us," said Allen. "We are bringing in a very highly touted setter in Hannah Bettge from Gardner, Kan. She was a Kansas Class 5A All-State player and I'm looking forward to working with her. We also have a batch of transfers coming in from Johnson County Community College. They will bring us some size in the front row and some quickness in the back row. So we should be pretty solid.
"Both Perri Tucker and Shannon McCarty have experience in the middle as does Cami Williams as a returner, so we will have some strong competition in the middle blocker spot.
"At libero Renata Dill will be pushed by returner Kaysha Green and Sarah Slater is also a libero. Sarah is one of the transfers from JCCC. There will be some very strong passers in the back row and I am looking forward to it.
"Setter will definitely be held down by Hannah Bettge. She is very skilled and we have a back-up setter in Rebecca Simkins, and returner Kylie Pease will do some setting for us as well. We should be strong in that area."
Baker will open up 2013 with two tournaments on the road, first at the Northwestern Tournament in Sioux City, Iowa on Aug. 23-24 before traveling to Bellevue, Neb., for the Bellevue Tournament on Aug. 30-31.
The Wildcats will open up the home season on Sept. 6-7 in the Baker Invitational at the Collins Center. They will take on John Brown on Friday, Sept. 6 at 11 a.m. and Friends at 7 p.m. Then they will face Benedictine College at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7 and wrap up the Invitational with a 7 p.m. match against Sterling.
For all information regarding Baker Volleyball this season, please visit www.bakerwildcats.com.