With the graduation of a stellar class of seniors, it's up to junior standouts Lexi Hart and Bri Savidge to take over the reins of a young Truman High School volleyball team.

“If you don't have any seniors,” Truman coach Denise Craig said before the second day of practice, “it's great to have experienced and talented juniors like Lexi and Bri.”

Both Hart – who is the reigning state long jump champion – and Savidge have started for the Patriots volleyball team since their freshmen year, and they feel comfortable in their new role as team leaders, both on and off the court.

“We had great senior leadership last year, but I felt like Bri and I were leaders too, even though we were just sophomores,” Hart said. “We're both ready to be team leaders this year. We don't have any seniors on the team, so it's just kind of a natural thing.”

Savidge agreed.

“This team is going to be a work in progress,” Savidge said. “The last two years, we had great senior leadership. I think Lexi and I always felt comfortable as starters, even though we were freshmen and sophomores, because the upperclassmen always made us feel like we were a part of the team.

“This year, Lexi and I have to make all the underclassmen – and there are a lot of them – feel the same way. I think we're going to be a very good team. Although we're young, I'm excited about this team.

“We have some great freshman players, and we have a lot of players who had success on our junior varsity team. It might take a while for them to get used to varsity play, but once we've played a while together, I think we're going to be a good team.”

Last year's squad was a surprising 25-8, and coach Denise Craig believes this year's team could enjoy equal success.

“I'm not saying we're going to be 25-8, but I think once the girls all come together and learn to play with each other, we could be a very good team,” Craig said. “No one thought we would be that good last year and we came together early in the season.

“This year, we got our butts kicked at the KU (volleyball) camp, and I think that was an eye-opener for the girls. They know what it's going to take to be successful. We have great numbers – 44 are trying out, and we're only keeping 18 varsity and junior varsity and 16 freshmen – and some very good young talent.

“The girls are working hard, and we're making it fun.”

Craig then pulled out a variety of canned teas, gum and “healthy stuff” out of a bag for the winning teams of a drill called triple.

“You get grape, because you know I don't like strawberry?” Hart asked as Craig nodded in approval. “I'm winning all that today.”

This is Craig's 16th season at Truman, and she is as excited as she was when she first took control of the program.

“I love these kids,” Craig said. “See how excited Lexi was about winning some of our treats? The girls work hard and I want to reward that hard work. It's just the second day of practice, and I can't wait for the start of the season.”

RIGHT UP HIS ALLIE: David Allie is thrilled with the numbers and even more excited about the enthusiasm as the new head coach of the Grain Valley High School football team.

“We have 120 out freshman through varsity and 83 on the varsity level, and they're all working hard,” Allie, the former Raytown South head coach, said after a Tuesday afternoon practice session. “I have been welcomed with open arms, and the kids and their parents and our administration have shown a great deal of enthusiasm.

“It was tough to leave Raytown South, but I already feel at home in Grain Valley.”

Allie was a part of Raytown South football for 17 years, serving the past 14 as the head coach after succeeding Kelly Donohoe when he went to Blue Springs. He led the Cardinals to a state championship appearance in 2008.

Allie replaces Jimmy Tucker, who was the Eagles head coach the past three seasons.

“The first two days of practice have been more about conditioning than anything,” Allie said. “But most of our guys are in pretty good shape. They hit the weight room at 6 a.m. this summer and we went to a camp at Pitt (Pittsburg) State and had the 25 hands-on days, so I feel like I know a lot about this team, and I really like what I see.”

NEW HOMECOMING TRADITION: Grain Valley is shaking up its traditional homecoming theme and turning the annual fall event into a weeklong celebration.

The homecoming parade will now take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 27th, followed by a pep rally at the high school. The town will be “painted blue” with white and blue banners decorating store fronts and businesses on Main Street.

The following week will include a variety of school-themed activities, along with community activities that will include the chance for area neighborhoods to win homecoming themed contests. Because the Missouri State High School Activities Association has mandated that there will be no Saturday football games this season, the homecoming game will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 3. The 2014 Grain Valley High School Hall of Fame Class will be introduced at 6:15 that night.

There will be a tent for alumni to gather and watch the game and an alumni breakfast and tour of the school Oct. 4.

Grain Valley also will hold its Fall Blue and White Day this Saturday morning, Aug. 9, on the school’s campus. There will be a pancake breakfast for the public 7-9 a.m. in the high school commons for $5 per plate.

The event will feature team photos, scrimmages and an 8:15 a.m. band performance at the stadium. A cross country run at 7:45 a.m. will be followed by a tennis scrimmage (8 a.m.), a softball scrimmage (8:30 a.m.), boys soccer scrimmage (8:30 a.m.), football scrimmage (9:40 a.m.) and volleyball scrimmage (10 a.m.) at their respective venues.

A parents meeting with activities director Mike Tarrants will then be held at noon in the high school auditorium followed by each sport’s breakout sessions at 12:45 p.m.