With around three weeks remaining until the district tournament, the Oak Ridge volleyball team currently sits one game above .500 with a record of 8-7-1 overall.
The Blue Jays are, of course, under a new head coach in former Dexter coach Starla Pulley and have won four of their last six games. Oak Ridge graduated a number of starters from last year’s 17-win team but return a talent in junior middle blocker Reagan Howe that has been lighting up the stat sheet.
While she far and away leads her team in major categories like kills and blocks, Howe also has one of the top hitting percentages in the state as well as the country. With her current mark of .429, Reagan has the fourth-highest hitting percentage in Missouri and 38th overall in the entire country, according to MaxPreps.
“I feel as if I have stepped up from last year a lot because my teammates and I knew we would have to work harder with how many seniors we lost,” Howe said. “My coach has been great about constructive criticism and helped me improve in all areas and most importantly my timing. It’s incredible to have my name in the conversation with other great hitters in the state.”
Along with her hitting percentage, Reagan has produced a team-high 181 kills (second-highest on team is 91) and 31 total blocks with a majority of them (28) being solo deflections.
Recently in a 3-0 win over East Prairie, Howe produced a career-high 17 kills off 27 attempts for a hitting percentage of .593. Reagan, whose favorite sport is actually basketball, has recently been receiving interest from college volleyball coaches.
In fact, Howe’s older sister Maggie just graduated from Stephens College, where she played college volleyball all four years.
“Up until this year, volleyball has kind of been a way to pass the time until it’s basketball season,” Howe said. “I started playing because my sister loved it so much, but now I’m starting to understand the hype. With how my season is going so far, I don’t really want it to end. It kind of opens up the idea of potentially furthering my volleyball career.”
Howe has stepped up in the back row as well and is one of the six Blue Jays with triple-digit digs at 119. Reagan also has a 91.5 serving percentage with 15 aces.
Outside of her dominance on the court, Reagan is undoubtedly one of her team’s leaders and is defined by Coach Pulley as a “light” for the Blue Jays.
“Reagan is a great athlete, but she’s just a ray of positivity,” Pulley explained. “She works hard and comes out everyday eager to do better. She gets down on herself — she thinks she should get a kill every time, but that’s not how volleyball works. But when she’s in the front row, she takes care of business for us.”
Howe added to being a leader for the team by saying, “The main thing my coach has asked of my teammates and me is to bring a lot of energy, which has helped me be more of a leader on the court. In a good game, my teammates and I feed off each other and just have a lot of fun.”
Also leading the way has been Oak Ridge senior setter/hitter Alivia Schilling as she is currently pacing Howe in kills with 91. Schilling leads the team in assists with 204 and is another Blue Jay with 100-plus digs at 124. Alivia has also come up with 17 aces (97.5 serve percentage) and seven total blocks.
When Schilling is playing the role of outside hitter, Oak Ridge sophomore Kinsley Bogenpohl fills in for her at setter as she’s dished out 172 assists of her own. On top of that, Bogenpohl leads the Blue Jays in digs and aces with 190 and 47, respectively, and she’s third overall in kills at 73.