By Kyle Daubs

While the holes to fill are small, the production that was left was vast. 

The Charleston High School volleyball team lost All-State and three-time All-Apollo selection Kat Blase to graduation, while second-team libero Hannah Buescher is also gone. Blase is now playing at national powerhouse Parkland. The two seniors were integral parts of a two-year stretch that saw CHS volleyball go 44-17 and win their first Regional Championship since 1997. 

Blase led the team with 282 kills last season while junior Alycia Triplett was second with 106. However, Triplett is not listed on Charleston’s roster. She

Charleston will look to reload with four seniors and one junior returning for coach Steve Pamperin, who enters his sixth overall season with the Trojans in his third stint as head coach. 

Seniors Genna Braden, Ellie Jacobs and Madison Veatch, Addy Wood, along with junior Makenzie Pamperin have played at the varsity level. 

“We will rely on these players to be role models both on and off the court,’ Pamperin said, “and to provide volleyball leadership to the team’s younger athletes.”

Pamperin was a first-team All-Apollo setter last season. Pamperin had 52 kills and was second on the team with 20 blocks. However, she returns as the team’s primary setter after recording 413 assists last season. 

Charleston also lost its top server in libero Hannah Buescher to graduation. Buescher led the team in aces and digs. Both Ashlyn McPeak and Sydney Bennett had more than 100 digs last season. Braden had 119 digs. 

Pamperin said the team will look to those who filled in last year to take on a bigger role this season. 

“We have several kids who gained varsity experience over the past couple of years,” said Pamperin. “We are trying to stress ball control and defense and we hope that we can turn that into a consistent offense.

Sophomore Addison Schrader could see playing time at the middle back, while three freshmen fill the rest of the varsity lineup – Macey Vanderport, Audrey Jacobs, and Blair Ritchey. 

Charleston will start the season with a match against Cumberland and then dive into Apollo Conference action with a match against Mattoon on Sept. 2. 

Not that Pamperin or Charleston needed any more excitement to start the season. Pamperin also addressed his team having to wear masks during games for a second consecutive sports season. 

“Summer contact days and camps went very well and the kids really brought a ton of energy and effort,” said Pamperin. “The goals for the team are to work hard at every point, bring a lot of energy, and constantly improve throughout the entire season. We understand that masks are required during practices, and we are waiting for additional guidance on game night protocols.”