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Kempner volleyball eyes playoff trip

By Michael Sudhalter

Kempner High senior Samantha Buller, right, hits the ball during a win over Westside on Aug. 26

Kempner High senior Samantha Buller, right, hits the ball during a win over Westside on Aug. 26

Kempner High senior middle blocker Samantha Buller is the only player on the team with playoff experience.

Buller, who finished with 11 kills in a 3-0 sweep against Houston Westside on Aug. 26, was  a freshman on the last Cougars team to reach the playoffs. They lost to Clear Creek, 3-0.

Cougars head coach Keith Johnson is confident that Kempner can return the postseason, after missing it by one spot in 2013.

“We have maturity, we can hit the ball, and we have some size,” Johnson said of the Cougars (8-7, 0-1), who have 11 seniors on the team and five returning starters. “We have good setters, too.”

The Cougars dropped their 6A-23 opener to Clements, 3-0. They’ll continue district play at 4:45 p.m. Friday when they host Alief Elsik.

Johnson formerly was the head coach at Elkins, and he regularly took the Knights to the playoffs.

He knows 6A-23 will be competitive with Austin leading the way, and Travis, Dulles, Hightower and Clements in the mix for a playoff spot.

Senior outside hitter Chelsea Onyechi has played a key role for the Cougars, and she led the team with 12 kills in the Westside win. Senior setter Kelsey Youngblood finished with 30 kills in the same match.

Johnson said the key for Kempner will be consistency throughout the season.

“We can’t let opponents dictate the tempo,” said Johnson, who noted that the team has strong chemistry and cohesiveness.

Along with Buller, Onyechi and Youngblood, the other seniors on the team are setter/defensive specialist Natalie Tsokos, defensive specialists Lyn Lee, Katelynne Jostandt,  and Kenna Sacky, outside hitters Emilee Fullick, Cornisha Lyons and Valerie Gates and middle blocker Chinyere Nwosu.

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