The Calvary Lutheran volleyball team hasn't had a winning season since head coach Nikki Kueck took over the program five years ago.
She hopes that changes this season.
"This year for sure, I want to break the .500 mark," Kueck said Monday. "I know it's a pretty obtainable goal for our girls - especially since we were so close to it last year."
Calvary went 9-13-2 last season before falling to Northwest in the opening round of the Class 1 District 7 tournament.
Kueck returns all her players from that team, and her expectations for 2014 are "very high."
"They know my expectations, they know how I'm going to run things, they know how their teammates are going to communicate, how they're going to respond to encouragement or constructive criticism," Kueck said. "I've seen a lot of improvement out of the girls, some more than others, but I've seen improvements in all areas from a variety of girls."
Calvary will move from District 7 to District 9, where the Lady Lions will compete against Bunceton, Chamois, Missouri School for the Deaf, New Haven, Otterville and Smithton when postseason play begins in October.
The Lady Lions spent two seasons in District 7, but were part of District 11 from 2008-11. During those seasons, Calvary matched up against Chamois, MSD and New Haven.
"I'm kind of excited we've moved back to that district," Kueck said. "There's a lot of new teams, which can be good for a veteran team like us, but only time will tell. We've got to play hard and we've got to go after it. We've all got to be on the same page.
The Lady Lions will face their first test when they open the season on the road at 6 p.m. today against Belle.
"I think the girls are excited and they're ready to play their first game," Kueck said. "I'm ready to see them perform in a game and see who's going to step up to the challenge in the first game, who's going to be mentally prepared and ready to go, and who's going to stand out after that first game."
Calvary will dress 10 players on the varsity team and Kueck expects them all to see significant playing time this season.
Seniors Emily Layson and Jenna Fischer will patrol the outside, along with junior Kara Bernskoetter.
Sophomores Katie Goodin and Kyra Wiegers will play on the inside, while sophomores Brooke Rollins and Rebecca Thompson, along with junior Jessica Sterk, will split time at setter and on the right side.
Senior Krista Stanford and junior Savannah Laird will be used as defensive specialists for the Lady Lions.
"In previous years, I felt like I had decent starters, but once I got past that I didn't have much of a bench," Kueck said. "This year I feel like if anybody is struggling on a certain day, I can sub anyone else in and they would be able to do just as well. I feel like I've got a very deep bench this year, with a lot of different abilities. I think that's one of our strong suits this season."
This will be the Lady Lions' first season playing in their own gym, something the team is looking forward to after playing their home games at Trinity Lutheran the last few seasons.
"It's a great thing," Kueck said. "The girls are super excited to be home and permanently placed."