BY ETHAN LILLARD
Pen City Current Sports
FORT MADISON- It will forever be a constant in high school sports for teams to lose key players to graduation. How those teams respond to those losses is ultimately the deciding factor in the team’s success moving forward.
While all teams deal with the graduation factor, not all get hit as hard as the Bloodhounds coming into 2019. Gone from last season’s Fort Madison squad are four now college players in Josie Pumphrey, Kaeli Hutson, Jassmine Bass and Braxtyn McGhghy, along with Olivia Williams who is now playing college softball.
Josie Pumphrey was a big piece of the puzzle for the 20-12 2018 Bloodhounds, putting out max effort game in and game out to account for over 30 percent of the teams overall digs on the season in 2018. Also, between Hutson, Bass, Williams and McGhghy, Fort Madison is losing over 62 percent of its kills from last year.
“We lost some good talent so we’ve got some work to do to figure out who’s going to replace those players,” Fort Madison Head Coach Kent Bailey said. “We’ve got a lot of talent here, they just need to pull together as a group.”
A lot of that talent comes in the form of now senior hitter Jillian Wiseman (273 in 2018) and assists leader Lauren Bailey (710 in 2018).
“Jillian Wiseman is returning, she is a middle hitter who led us in kills last year as a junior,” Bailey said. “We have Lauren Bailey who led the conference in assists, she’ll be a junior this fall. We’ve got Gracie Pumphrey who was a back-row defensive specialist last year, along with Jenna Jones and Nadia Boeding. We’ve got five that have got some playing time last year and we’ve got others that are chomping at the bit ready to go.”
Senior Maycee Featheringill will be also be counted on from the outside hitter’s spot to give the Hounds some punch from side. The list goes on of the girls on the team that are either competing for a spot, or looking to play themselves into playing time.
“We’ve got Kailyn Guzman at middle hitter, Reyna Lampe as an outside hitter, along with Kylee Cashman as an outside hitter. All three of them are juniors.
“We’ve got Anna Link and Logan Johnson who are hitters who are both sophomores, along with Genevieve Ruble and Maddie Pirri is looking at some back time as a defensive specialist, she’s also a sophomore. Then Kendall Beebe, she’s a junior setter, along with Jada Sheppard whose the backup senior setter.”
Fort Madison may not have a storied history of winning in every sport, but volleyball has been somewhat of a constant for the Hounds, having won back-to-back conference titles. Although the loss of so many pieces will be a lot for Fort Madison to overcome, the standard is still set the same coming into 2019 looking for a threepeat.
“That’s the goal for our kids and they know that,” Bailey said about his team winning the conference. “They know the work it takes to get there. The nice thing is we had kids that proceeded them that worked hard to get to this point, now we want to keep that ball rolling.”
While Bailey continues to set the bar high for his team, he admits this season’s non-conference schedule will be a meat grinder and will test his girls’ true grit.
“Conference wise we feel pretty good about where we’re at,” Bailey said. “We’re going to have a tough non-conference schedule. We go to play up at Bondurant-Farrar, in their tournament, Lynn-Mar in their tournament, Iowa City Liberty. We’re going to play some big teams and we’re also going to play some good teams that come back with good records from the previous year.
“Record wise might not always show as much, but we’re also doing that to raise our game so when we get to post-conference, we know what bigger schools look like and we’re prepared for them.”