Tactical shifts will juice the Parsons Vikings’ ascent to contender status — that’s what head coach Brooke Hopper believes.
The Vikings finished the season 16-23 overall and 4-8 in SEK League play last fall. While the 16 wins were nine more than the previous year, the fifth-place finish in the league was a dampener on a campaign that entered with high aspirations.
This fall, Parsons will shift two to a two-setter, 6-2 base system and use a libero for the first time in Hopper’s tenure.
“You look back and there’s always thoughts about what you could’ve done,” Hopper said. “We tried a lot of different things in the summer.”
Junior Iniya Hinman will be one of the top outside hitters in the region. A high-flying leaper, Hinman tallied 262 kills, 179 digs and 79 blocks as a sophomore.
“Iniya is a natural leader simply because of her physical ability. What we’re looking for is for her to step into that role and be more vocal with her teammates,” Hopper said. “Whenever you have that natural ability, it puts a lot on you. I’m really excited to see what she does.”
Hinman won’t be a surprise to any opponent’s scouting report.
“She is a natural competitor. She wants a triple block,” Hopper said. “She wants to succeed with that. We put a double and triple block on her in practice to get her used to it.”
Kierstyn Houk, who came back last season after recovering from back-to-back knee injuries, will move to the libero role.
Houk had a team-high 297 digs in 2021.
“When Kierstyn came back from her ACL tears, she really honed her passing skills,” Hopper said. “We’re a different team if we don’t have her passing for five rotations.”
Senior Briona Patteson, who led the Vikings with 587 assists last year, will abdicate setter duties to serve a more balanced role.
“She’s an athlete that’s willing to do what you ask and has the ability to play any position on the floor,” Hopper said. “She can get back to hitting and passing this year, what she loves. That’ll bring more energy out from her.”
Saylah Rea and Madison Lubbers will move into the setter roles for Parsons. Rea saw significant varsity action last year, racking up 94 kills and 244 digs.
“They both have setting experience,” Hopper said. “Last year, Saylah played all the way around.”
Karli Spriggs, who had 108 kills last fall, Riley Dunlay and Aashka Patel make up the rest of the Vikings’ eight-man varsity roster.
Hopper believes that the lineup shifts will stoke the upward trajectory for Parsons.
“We got to a point where we had options with our numbers,” Hopper said. “As we ran through our camp this year, we realized that we have more than we have in the past. So we want to best promote our team chemistry.”
Labette County, the two-time defending league champions, are in the midst of a roster overhaul after a heavy dose of graduations. This fall’s league throne is widely believed to be up for the taking and Parsons should be in the mix.
“The top four spots in league are going to be a battle,” Hopper said. “It’ll be a really interesting year. It’ll come down to who can stay tough and compete night in, night out. My plan for us is to make sure I’m putting pressure on them in practice to make sure they’re prepared and confident.”
Hopper also believes that, after last year’s first-round exit at sub-state, the Vikings can go deeper into the playoffs.
“We can absolutely do something in the postseason,” Hopper said. “We’ve done better every year. This year, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to make it to state. But we’re going to have to peak at the right time. We have to know the situations and plays we need to make.”