FLORENCE — The Florence Lady Buffs may not have key players like outside hitter Rebecca Horton and setter Shali Simpson this season, but they don’t look at that as a deficiency. 

It’s just an opportunity for the 2014 senior class to step up and go out with a good season this fall.

“It’s really exciting to be back,” senior setter Brooklynne Owens said.

Florence gets ready to tip off the season Monday when it hosts Round Rock Christian Academy. The game will be a part of a season-opening doubleheader as the junior varsity game begins at 6 p.m. and the varsity game follows.

“I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this better,” senior middle blocker Shelbie Long said. “I’m ready to give it 110 percent.”

Horton, a Concordia University commit, finished the 2013 season with 286 kills, and 31 blocks while Simpson had a team-leading 62 assists. Their senior seasons helped Horton earn first team All-District 22-2A honors while Simpson was picked to the second team.

“We have big shoes to fill, but I think we can fill them,” Owens said. “Becca was our best offensive hitter and I think Shelbie is going to fill those shoes really well. Shali was a really good setter. She had a lot of assists, and I feel if I push really hard, I can hopefully fill her shoes as well.”

Hannah Hurley, Long, Michaela Meischen, Taylor Navarette, Owens and Jenny Roche lead the team as the seniors this season.

The Buffs went 6-19 and 3-11 in district play, but the seniors know that was a season ago and are confident this season will be different.

“Losing is hard, but it also strengthens you together as a team to know what mistakes not to make,” Navarette said.

Long is one of the players that will be looked upon to fill in for Horton. She came off the bench last season and backed up Horton and is Florence’s leading offensive player with 78 kills.

Long also finished the season with 14 blocks.

Florence also has solid defensive contributors coming back, led by Clarissa Carranco. She was an all-district first-team selection as a sophomore in 2013 after accumulating 88 digs and successfully receiving 230 serves.

Though Horton led the team in blocks last season, the other top-four blockers were underclassman Peyton Thomas (19), Long (14) and Harlie Byrne (14).

Roche led the team with 131 digs last season and Hurley finished with 99.

After hosting RRCA, the Lady Buffs travel to McGregor on Tuesday. Florence will also play in the Gatesville Tournament and opens District 25-3A play on Sept. 12 at Blanco.

Contact Albert Alvarado at alvarado@kdhnews.com

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