McPHERSON — The McPherson High School volleyball team came one win away from reaching the state tournament, but fell in straight sets to Andover in the sub-state championship.


With six key returners, including two Division I commits, the Bullpups have a great chance to reach state this season.


Leading the way for McPherson is 6-1 junior Rhian Swanson - a Kansas University commit - and 6-3 senior Katie Berg - a Long Island University commit.


Swanson was last year’s AVCTL Division III MVP and led the Bullpups with 407 kills.


McPherson head coach Christy Doile, entering her 15th year as head coach with a career record of 425-162, said she wants to see more constancy from Swanson with her serve and kill efficiency percentage.


"We are looking to her to bring more leadership qualities and mentally helping herself and her team exceed potential," Doile said.


Berg, who Doile calls the team’s "steady, level-headed leader," will move from middle hitter to outside hitter this season.


"She has embraced this role and we are excited to see how far she can take us on the outside hitter," Doile said. "However, if needed, we know she can dominate in the middle hitter position. She has put in extra training defensively, as she can also be a threat out of the back row. This will be her third season starting as a hitter for us."


Senior Taylor Casebeer, a three-year starter, will be the team’s libero this season. Doile describes Casebeer as a hustler and a scrappy player.


Casebeer had a team-high 318 digs last season, which was eighth best in the entire state.


"She has a strong serve that can score points," Doile said. "The strong, aggressive serve does come with risk, which is a higher number of errors. We are hoping she can keep that ratio even and lessen those errors."


Junior setter Brette Doile had a team-high 807 assists last year and is a three-year starter. Doile also has the versatility to drop back and receive serves, as she has experience playing as a defensive specialist and a libero.


"She will be flexible and adjust to her team needs," Coach Doile said. "We are also looking for her to be more comfortable, confident in running the offense, which will free her up mentally to be a better leader for the team."


Two-year starter Ella Schmid, a junior, returns as the team’s defensive specialist.


"She is a small, springy, and smart hitter who isn’t afraid of a big block," Doile said. "She is a positive leader on the floor."


Junior Lauren Labertew, a versatile player who can set and hit, is also a two-year starter.


"Lauren is a well-rounded athlete and is a super competitor," Doile said. "She is a consistent server and look for her ace numbers to go up. We are thankful for her flexibility, athleticism and her grit."


McPherson opened the season on Aug. 29 in Newton and went 4-0. The Bullpups are next in action on Sept. 1 at a triangular with top-ranked Andale (4A).


Scores were not available by press time.