The Morton volleyball team is making its presence known in the community, on and off the court.

After entering his first season as the volleyball coach only a few weeks before his team’s first contest last season, head coach Jim Smalley enters his second year with more knowledge of his team.

“Things are tremendously different. We all feel so much better going into the season than last,” Smalley said. “They’re a great group of kids. They’re buying into everything we’re stressing. It’s a healthy competition.”

With the team’s chemistry trending upward, one of Smalley’s team bonding experiences is biking close to 10 miles around Morton and “making their presence known in the community,” which is a slogan on the back of team jersey’s this season. The team rides for an hour before their two hour practice.

The Potters finished 15-10 last season and lost its regional semifinal game to Metamora.

Morton looks to finish further this season, returning six players from last season, including three starters.

“I’m pretty excited for the season,” Smalley said. “We’re way ahead from where we were last season. It’s going to be interesting to see how things set up.”

Smalley said his team will miss last seasons blocks leader middle blocker Emily Moushon (56) and digs leader Maria Alferova (328). However, there is excitement for the young talent ahead. 

“Just by how they’re playing in practice, I feel like we’re going to be good,” Smalley said.”

Despite their departures, Morton returns co-captain outside hitter Brandi Bisping, who led the Potters in kills (271) and aces (69).

Bisping spent her summer playing club basketball and volleyball. Smalley, the coach for EastSide volleyball club team, said he saw improvement in her game over the course of the summer.

Known for her power, Bisping will look to keep opponents guessing after mixing soft hits into her arsenal. q3

Outside hitter Kara Swartzendruber will try to take the pressure off of Bisping. 

“She’s toned up and looks great so far,” Smalley said. “She’s quiet, but then when she hits, it surprises you. They each feed off each other.”

Each outside hitters will be set up by junior setter Jossie Weller, Bisping’s co-captain.

Weller and Smalley’s relationship has sparkled over the last year as she helped Smalley coach EastSide volleyball this past summer as well as other levels.

“She’s bought into it. She knows what I want and is always focused,” Smalley said.

In her sophomore season, Weller was fourth on the team in assists (98).

The squad’s first test will be against Normal West at 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Potterdome.