Kelsi Warner back in Central lineup after season of club volleyball

Aug. 28—CHEYENNE — The COVID-19 pandemic has left countless people to face countless decisions they never thought they'd have to make. Cheyenne Central senior Kelsi Warner was one of them.

Warner has spent the past handful of years playing club volleyball with Colorado-based squads. Those seasons often start in November and run through April. The club calendar changed when the Colorado High School Activities Association moved its volleyball season to the spring.

The club season started in September, and Warner opted to play for Norco Juniors in Fort Collins. It was a decision she didn't make hastily.

"I thought I had more opportunities to succeed as a player with Norco," she said. "We were playing a lot of tournaments against really great teams and getting a lot of college exposure.

"I weighed all the pros and cons and felt like that was the best choice for me."

Warner is back on the court with Central, and started as its setter during Friday morning's season-opening 25-18, 25-15 loss to Thunder Basin.

"This is my senior year, and I wanted to come back here and play, and, hopefully, leave my mark here," Warner said. "It's great to be back. I love these girls, and I love the energy we bring to the court.

"It's a little bit of a change because they're not used to me as a setter, but they'll get used to me, and we'll click really well. We're a lot better now than when we went to the (Colorado State University) camp, but we still have to find our groove."

The 5-foot-7 Warner is a strong distributor and decision-maker, first-year Lady Indians coach Jessica Bratton-Vega said.

"She has played a lot of volleyball, and played at a really high level. That Norco program always plays at a really high level," the coach said. "She sees the volleyball really well; she can read the game and really get after it.

"Setters really need to lead the team, and she really tries to bring up the girls a little bit quicker and make things go faster. She doesn't just throw it outside and hope for the best. She is going to help our team significantly."

Warner prides herself on not just distributing the ball, but also covering the court defensively and serving.

"I like to run a quick offense and pick up a bunch of balls on defense," Warner said. "If the other team tips the ball over the block, I like to get up there and keep it off the floor. If we get a block, I like to drop down and keep the ball alive for my team."

Classmate Emma Peel served as Central's setter last season, and substituted in and out for Warner throughout Friday morning's match. Peel is currently dealing with a shoulder injury, but Bratton-Vega hasn't ruled out having Warner and Peel on the court at the same time.

"I like both of them," Bratton-Vega said. "If we can find continuity with the girls and the confidence in who is getting them the ball, we'll go with it. There were some really good things that happened out there (against Thunder Basin).

"They're both a little shorter, so we need to find a lineup that can get a big block up and still use the right sides with them out on the court."

Warner welcomes the opportunity to play in a two-setter system.

"We both communicate well, we're both good at recognizing the defense and good at calling out free-ball plays," Warner said. "I think we can both help this team."

Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at jjohnke@wyosports.net or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.

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