The Van Meter volleyball team lost eight seniors to graduation last season.

This fall, the Bulldogs will look to four returning letterwinners to lead the way forward and follow up on a 13-12 campaign in 2012 that saw the team finish 6-2 in conference play to tie for third place.

Seniors Katie Agey, Allison Ridgway and Ashlyn Reicks will be leading the charge. Agey, an all-West Central Activities Conference honorable mention a year ago, was second on the team in kills with 116, averaging 1.49 per set. She was also second on the team with 215 digs, and had 50 aces on 245-of-277 serving.

Ridgway played the middle and was third on the team with 104 kills and 19 blocks, 14 of which were solo stops. Reicks, the team’s libero, led the squad with 266 digs, and returning letterwinner Ali Flaherty will play at outside hitter.

Coach Holly Heard will count on others to take on roles. Freshman Ellie Folkerts will see plenty of playing time at outside hitter, and sophomore Lizzy Lyon will take over at setter, a position in which then-senior Lacey Lauterbach racked up 602 assists — good for third in the conference — a year ago. Heard, in her eighth year as coach, also pointed to juniors Allison Volk and Cierra Nickerson as possible contributors.

Serving and defense will be keys to success, Heard said.

"Serving will be one of our strengths this year, and we will be a little quicker on our defense," she said. "The team will work very hard to not let balls fall on our side. They will go for everything and have been practicing that way."

Communication, always important on a volleyball court, will also be a critical component as the team finds its footing in a new season.

"We will have a young team — this is also going to be a challenge," Heard said. "We are working on communication and plan to have this be a strength by the end of the season.

Heard pointed to reigning champion Woodward-Granger, as well as Des Moines Christian, Earlham and Guthrie Center, as the teams to beat in conference play.