With the state of Parsons Vikings girls athletics, perhaps the reset opportunity provided by the COVID-19 pandemic was a welcome one.

Last year, the volleyball team won one match. The girls basketball team suffered a winless campaign. The fear was that the softball team would suffer a similar fate before their season was canceled by KSHSAA because of the pandemic.

Now with high school sports in the state set to resume, second-year Parsons volleyball head coach Brooke Hopper hopes a renewed focus can invigorate a program desperately trying to climb up the ladder.

“Looking at our win-loss, it doesn’t look like we had a great season,” Hopper said. “Coming in as a first-year head coach and having a young, inexperienced team, it’s not difficult to build on that. The girls are used to my coaching style, we’ve built relationships over the past year and they know how important it is to be intense during the offseason.” 

The Vikings have two seniors on the roster this fall in Ashlyn Brownewell and Dailyn Ortiz.

Brownewell will be the Vikings’ setter in charge of facilitating the offense.

“She’s been a setter for me and I’ve coached her every level of her career,” Hopper said. “She’s really come out of her shell as a setter. She’s a quiet personality and we talk to her about being more vocal on the floor. She needs to set the tone for the games. As a senior and a setter, it’s more important than ever to bust out and lead the girls.” 

Ortiz’s role will be to plug holes as they pop up.

“If we’re struggling in a particular role, we can throw her in there and she’ll have a great attitude,” Hopper said. “She’s not going to hang her head. She’ll work her hardest and run through a wall for you.” 

Jamya Kendrick, a junior for Parsons, will be another key piece in Parsons’ rebuilding process.

“I’ve seen her gain confidence,” Hopper said. “Jamya has always been the vocal leader. While she’s hard on herself, she tells the girls to keep her head up. This offseason, I’ve seen her build her own confidence. She’ll really put it together.” 

Iniya Hinman, a freshman outside hitter, is being hyped as one of the next big arrivals to the Vikings’ program. She’s the only freshman listed on the varsity roster.

“Watching her in the offseason and throughout the summer, she’s extremely athletic and doesn’t play like she’s 5-foot-8,” Hopper said. “She’s going to be crucial along our front row. While she is still green as an incoming freshman, we do have high expectations for her. She has an extremely high ceiling.” 

The Vikings will be without one starter from last year as Kierstyn Houk, who missed most of basketball season with a torn ACL, tore it again during summer workouts.

“She did some great things for us last year,” Hopper said. “She’s another one that’ll put her head down and work. While it’s a hit to our team, I have zero reservations that she’ll come back from her second ACL tear. We’re stressing that we want her to focus on her knowledge of the game.” 

As Hopper continues to tirelessly lay a new foundation, she recognizes her own approach is evolving and is taking a page from one of her longtime mentors. 

“I learned that you cannot coach every player the same,” Hopper said. “I played for Kristi Snider at Labette County. The way she coached my team back then is not the way you can coach teams now. Each player brings their own style to the floor.” 

One sign of progression came off the court this summer as a group of volleyball players addressed the USD 503 board imploring them to allow athletics this fall with schools planning to reopen through the pandemic.

“We’re emphasizing that if we want to have a season, we know what we have to do,” Hopper said. “Our girls want a season. When our school board met, we had 10 girls show up to the meeting and Jamya stepped up and spoke. That showed how much they do want to have a season.” 

Leaping from one win to contender may be a stretch for the Vikings this fall. But becoming a feared matchup isn’t out of reach for Parsons.

“We are going to win more than one game this year,” Hopper said. “I know that. The girls believe that. That’s the most important piece. We talk a lot about changing our mindset and having a winning mindset. This year, we’re really going to make some noise. We’re going to give some good teams some tough matches.” 

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