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As a new year of California High School athletics quickly approaches, fall sports teams have been preparing themselves for the annual grind that comes with playing a new season. For CHS volleyball, this seasonal grind is nothing new, and head coach Julie Bailey believes this year's Lady Pintos are fully ready for the long road ahead of them.

In their 2020-21 campaign, the Lady Pintos enjoyed a very good season, finishing with a record of 24-7-1. During the season, California went on a winning streak of three wins or more four different times, including winning their last six regular season sets. Unfortunately, California's season ended in heartbreak when they were defeated in the first round of the Class 3 District 9 Tournament by the Osage High School Lady Indians 3-0.

Now, the Lady Pintos are back for another shot at the district championship and, hopefully, the state championship. Bailey said the Lady Pintos have been working hard this offseason to improve their game and take extra steps to make another run for the gold.

"Our volleyball team has been busy all summer getting ready for the season," Bailey said. "Our coaches have hosted two in-house camps for all our high school players. Our girls have been in the weight room all summer. All three teams — JVB, JVA and varsity — competed in a league in Eldon sponsored by Paradise Shootouts. Also, all three teams attended team camps in Jefferson City hosted by Licking Summer Camps. Varsity also attended a team camp in Branson; it was also hosted by Licking Summer Camps."

California has a recent tradition of success in volleyball and boasts a roster that includes some promising talent; that includes sophomore Isabella Kincaid, who competed at the national level with her club team in Las Vegas during the summer. But according to coach Bailey, it isn't just the player's skill that makes the most difference — it is the experience that they come with.

"We have a lot of varsity experience on our team this year and have players with a lot of club experience," Bailey said. "Our girls have strong skills and have high volleyball IQs. Our defense is tough, and our setters are great at getting our powerful hitters the balls."

In addition to the difficult schedule and well-coached teams the Lady Pintos will have to face this season, California's biggest challenge will be having enough healthy players to play in a season where no set is set in stone, Bailey said.

"Our biggest challenge will be to keep everyone healthy. In the season of COVID, we never know who will be available to play," Bailey said. "If we are able to keep everyone healthy, we should be in great shape as long as we play aggressively. We need our defense to go after every ball, and our hitters to attack with force. We have that ability but at times play passively."

The Lady Pintos are 31-players-strong coming into this season. Among those players are three seniors, who Bailey said have all improved their games.

"Our seniors will be great leaders for us this year," Bailey said. "Ella Lewis was an all-state middle last year and has increased her offensive attacks and improved her blocking. Bailey Lage is our senior setter with great hands and will have the chance this season to make an impact on the front row as a hitter. Riley Hees has improved her passing off serve receive and will make a huge difference for us defensively with her quickness. Our juniors and sophomores are all potential impactful players. We have a well-rounded team with lots of potential and will be fun to watch. I sure enjoy coaching them."

The Lady Pintos have had a long off-season, but they are ready to get back to regular season competition. Their first regular season game was played in Mexico when the Lady Pintos hit the road to take on the Mexico High School Lady Bulldogs Tuesday. They'll be back in action Thursday at home against Boonville.

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