The enthusiasm inside the Blue Springs South High School gymnasium was almost as intense as the heat outside as Mallori Perry held her first full day of practice for the Jaguars volleyball team.

While many longtime South fans might need a program early in the season, as nine seniors – including The Examiner’s 2017 Player of the Year Hannah LaPour and 2018 Player of the Year Riley Gregston – have graduated, Perry is excited about the familiar new faces on this year’s team.

“We have players who might be new to our fans,” Perry said Monday afternoon as the Jaguars wrapped a practice following last week’s tryout sessions. “We had 40 girls try out and 36 made the team, which we’re all excited about.

“We’ll have 22 on varsity and junior varsity, and while we lost nine seniors off last year’s team, we played a lot of younger players late in the season and they got some valuable varsity experience that we hope will pay big dividends this year.”

In Perry’s first year, the Jaguars enjoyed a 29-7 record. They won sectionals and came within a win of making it to the state final four, falling to Willard in the state quarterfinals.

All-state middle hitter Meauna Booth, setter Mandy Main and middle hitter Carsen Murray are back this year with a group of enthusiastic newcomers who starred for a successful junior varsity team last year.

“We had tryouts last week, but spent a lot of time together this summer and we already feel like a team,” said junior Aubrey LaPour, Hannah’s younger sister who made an impact on the Jaguars late last season. “You can tell how excited everyone is about this season by being at practice today.”

Despite practicing inside, and turning the gym over to coach Matt Klein and his Jaguars football team at 5 p.m., the Jaguar players were drenched in sweat.

“If you take a video,” joked LaPour (see video at examiner.net), “can you take it from my neck up? I’m really sweaty – but that’s what I was talking about, we really got in a lot of good work today.”

Early on, Perry is seeing leadership from all grade levels, team bonding taking place and a chemistry developing that she hopes will lead to a another successful season.

“Last week, we had tryouts and really didn’t get into running sets and things like that,” Perry said. “We did a lot of good things today. I couldn’t be any more excited about my players and our season.

“I’m just glad I’m coaching an indoor sport right now, because it’s too hot to do anything outside.”

As if on cue, Klein and his Jaguar football team began entering the gymnasium as she wrapped up her practice.

“See what I mean,” Perry added with a laugh.