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story.lead_photo.caption Annabelle Maassen of the Lady Jays goes up for a hit during a match last season at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by News Tribune / News Tribune.

The takeaway the Jefferson City volleyball team had after this summer's camp at the University of Nebraska was serving is the most important skill a team can have.

The Lady Jays are putting that information to use in practice in preparation for the 2019 season, which begins tonight against Rock Bridge at Fleming Fieldhouse.

The varsity match is schedule to start around 6:30 p.m.

"You always practice serving a lot," Jefferson City coach Lisa Hoffmeyer said. " We're just spending a little bit more energy on our serving, and I think as a result of it, we have created a little bit tougher serve with our offense."

The Lady Jays also emphasize the effectiveness of serve-receive, and they are noticing their growing ability to serve.

"We always focus on our side out percentage," Hoffmeyer said. "I think we're not quite where we want to be with our serve-receiver in that first contact, and something we have kind of been preaching to the kids is we tend to fall back on the fact that we felt like we have a really good serving team.

"So a lot of times we asked for their feedback and that's oftentimes what we hear is that we served really well, so maybe we didn't make us look so good. We're just trying to really enforce the idea that we're going to play against a lot of really great serving teams, so we just want to make sure we're consistently defending whatever that serve looks like and focused on that first contact."

As for who'll take the court for the Lady Jays this season, most of the starting spots are set.

Paige Reeser, a junior, returns as a setter for Jefferson City. Juniors Annabelle Maassen and Kayla Walters will be outside hitters.

"She is unquestionably our vocal leader," Hoffmeyer said of Maassen, "but we know if we want to be successful, it's got to be every single one of them."

Senior Rylie Bohanan is slotted in at libero but Sydney Vogt could play the libero roll as well this season.

Abigail Baughman, a senior, will be a right side hitter.

Juniors Rhakala Blackmon and Sarah Linthacum didn't see much varsity action last season, but will bring a lot of height as middle blockers.

"We're trying to really be a little bit more disciplined on our block and having a disciplined defense behind a solid block," Hoffmeyer said. "That's kind of what we felt like was an area of weakness last year."

Ella Wang, a senior, could see time as a middle blocker or a ride side hitter.

There's plenty of competition at defensive specialist.

Included in that battle are seniors Hannah Reid, Grace Bailey and Emily Houser, and juniors Jordan Nieemeyer and Abigail Farris.

"So really a long list of girls that we kind of feel like it's a pretty even playing field right now," Hoffmeyer said.

The Lady Jays will have a new group of district opponents this season after being placed in Class 4 District 12 with Belton, Raymore-Peculiar, Sedalia Smith-Cotton and Warrensburg.

Jefferson City will also have a potential third matchup with Helias coming in the district tournament, with the Lady Crusaders moving up from Class 3.

"We kind of had an idea that may be coming our way," Hoffmeyer said. "Obviously, we feel like we're two of the better teams in the state of Missouri, so I don't like the idea that we could potentially be eliminating one or the other straight out of districts.

"But unfortunately, geographically, that's just the way it kind of lines out."

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