Reilly Finarty

Reilly Finarty shows some nice form as she prepares to hit the volleyball for the Panthers in a varsity match in 2018. Knoxville’s big goal is to repeat as the South Central Conference Champions for the third year in a row.

A total of 31 girls have reported to practice for the Knoxville Panther High School Volleyball program.

The Panthers and head coach Mollie Keitges, who is entering her fourth campaign as the head coach, would like nothing better than to repeat as league champions.

“I look for Albia and Davis County to be the toughest teams in the South Central Conference this year. Our goal is to three-peat as conference champions.”

With eight returning letter winners back, five of them being starters, there is a real chance of that happening.

The eight back to show the way on the court in 2019 include Katie Keitges, Reilly Finarty, Marley McKay, Tara Uitermarkt, Maggie Wilkins, Peyton McMurray, Lauren Micetich and Amy Sullivan.

Keitges, finarty and McKay were all first-team All-South Central Conference selections a year ago.

Keitges, an all-around superb athlete, who recently committed to play Division I basketball at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is an outside hitter. She led the Panthers in kills last year with 320.

Finarty is an outside hitter and McKay is the setter. McKay led the KHS squad with 633 assists last year.

Uitermarkt is a returning starter, who is expected to have a big year for the squad as a middle hitter.

Wilkins is the returning libero. She was tops on the 2018 team with 433 digs.

McMurray is a returning right side hitter, Micetich is a serving specialist and Sullivan is a defensive specialist.

With many of the roles defined from past performances, Coach Keitges, needs to keep the team focused and play it one match at a time.

“The strength of our team is our experience. At most positions we will have 3 and 4 year starters on the court,” Keitges said.

The coach added that the 2019 Panthers will focus on ball control to up their game this year.

When asked if any young players could see some time on the court, Keitges said, “Melanie Sullivan is a freshman who could have a big impact for us.”

Knoxville lost two players from the 2018 team to graduation. The coach will need to fill the roles previously held by Molly Devin and Kelsey Ryan. Ryan provided a spark for the team as a defensive player and Devin was a middle blocker.

In summary, the coach stated, “We are excited to get out and compete. We have big goals and for the first time in several years the majority of our line up will be upperclassmen. I love the energy and focus the girls have shown in the gym.”

Odds and Ends

After opening the season with two playing dates in August, the Panthers pick up the pace with six days of action in September, four of them will be conference matches.

Perry Bell can be reached at sports@journalexpress.net or by calling the newsroom at 641-842-2155.

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