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RANGELY I Coach Jimmie Mergleman has no problem with other people expecting a lot out of her team.
She does, too.
Based on the number of returning players, the Lady Panthers — second last year in the Western Slope League behind Meeker — have to be considered one of favorites this year.
“I have high expectations, just like when I start every season,” said the Rangely volleyball coach.
After last Saturday’s scrimmage in Grand Junction, Mergleman has a better idea of the Lady Panthers’ progress.
“We’ve got some areas that we’re good in, and we’ve got some areas we’re weak in,” Mergleman said. “But we have a lot of work to do.”
Mergleman hopes the Lady Panthers can build on last season’s success. Besides finishing second in the league, Rangely won the regional tournament, beating rival Meeker and advancing to the state tournament. The Lady Panthers won their first match at state, but lost their second.
“I think we gained a lot experience, because we were playing with a lot of sophomores,” Mergleman said. “Although we will miss our seniors, I just expect them (returning players) to do what they’re supposed to do day in and day out and get the job done.”
Of the returning players, “the bulk of them are juniors,” Mergleman said.
The Lady Panthers have only one returning senior starter — Audrey Hogan. But they have four returning junior starters — Dakota Kenney, Marie Morton, Torie Slagle and Rosilynn Thacker.
“Kelsey Harvey is also stepping up and doing a nice job,” Mergleman added.
Some of the younger players — sophomores and even freshmen — will see some varsity playing time.
“Most of my JV is made up of sophomores, and I have some freshmen (who will play),” Mergleman said. “I expect some of them to step up and do something for us. I’m a firm believer in playing people, whether they’re freshmen or seniors. I don’t care what grade they are. I play the best people.”
As far as the league, it should be highly competitive again this season.
“It’s always tough,” Mergleman said.
While some players are adjusting to new positions — “I changed some people around to different spots,” Mergleman said — the coach thinks the Lady Panthers should be good to go for a season-opening tournament this weekend at Montrose.
“The girls are coming along,” Mergleman said. “We’re about where we should be. I think we’ll be ready.”