TJ volleyball aims to take next step

·2 min read

Aug. 12—The Thomas Jefferson Independent volleyball team went 13-15-3 under coach Dave Soetaert last season.

And that was without any seniors on the roster.

Now more seasoned than ever at the varsity level, Soetaert hopes that translates into even more success for his Cavaliers, who also recruited the hallways and picked up two key athletes to the volleyball team.

"We have players with experience that played a lot of varsity games last year," Soetaert said. "We picked up a couple of new kids that were already in school. (Sophomore) Macie Shifferd is coming from cross country and will dual sport. That's unusual at Thomas Jefferson with the academic rigors. That is quite a feat. (Junior) Gabbi Hiebert is a basketball point guard and one of their top players. She's coming over and playing for the first time. We picked up two good athletes. That's always good to add into a group that has already had seasoning.

"Now it's just a matter of shifting those players around. We've had more athleticism than we've had in quite some time. It's just about getting them in volleyball mode and seeing how fast we get them to gel. We are ready to compete."

Thomas Jefferson has a talented returning core. A senior, Nico Carlson will be a four-year starter at middle hitter and was a first team all-Ozark 7 Conference selection last season.

"She brings that leadership," Soetaert said. "She brings that knowledge to help some of the others coming in."

The Cavaliers also welcome back senior Yasmina Mokhtar, who Soetaert described as vocal and active at the defensive specialist position. Junior Alexis Stamps enters her third year starting at outside hitter.

"She's quick and very mobile along the net," Soetaert said of Stamps.

Other key returnees are junior Mary Nguyren, who will serve as Thomas Jefferson's full-time setter. She will be a three-year starter.

Sophomore Lannah Grigg comes off a standout freshman campaign at middle hitter in which she earned all-conference laurels.

"She established herself as a middle last year," Soetaert said. "She'll just grow from there."

Thomas Jefferson will open the season in the Verona Invitational on Aug. 27.

"We have an athletic group with good volleyball potential," Soetaert said. "That should mold into a competitive team. But it will be more about how well we play together and put the team first that will decide some of the wins and losses. We are playing some good competition. That's the way you want it. We want to step in the door and compete. Win, lose or draw, we want opponents to know they had a volleyball game."