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WASHINGTON, MO. — Abby Lynn called it "disappointing."

Anna Eckelkamp, her teammate on the Borgia girls volleyball team, referred to it as "sort of a letdown."

Yes, the Knights' third-place finish at the Class 3 state tournament last season did not sit well in this volleyball-crazy town.

Borgia has reached the state final four tournament 19 times in its storied history and took first place 10 times, the last title in 2013.

So, the third-place effort was rather ho-hum.

"You don't get a (banner) with your name on it in the gym for finishing third," Eckelkamp said. "The worst part was, we really thought we could win it."

The Knights get a shot at redemption this time around. And this group is determined not to come up short.

Borgia carries high hopes, as usual, into the upcoming campaign.

With Lynn and Eckelkamp, the only returning senior starters, leading the way, the Knights assembled for their first practice late Monday afternoon under the direction of new coach CJ Steiger.

Steiger has coached the boys volleyball team at Borgia the last six seasons and brings plenty of experience to the table. A 1995 graduate of nearby New Haven High, Steiger has been a club coach and an NCAA volleyball referee.

Plus, he is well aware of the school's rich tradition.

"The bar is set pretty high here," he said.

Steiger is replacing Andrea Beaty, who left to take a job as an assistant coach at the University of Texas-El Paso.

Borgia lost plenty of talent from last year's 28-9-2 squad, which beat Pleasant Hill 25-18, 25-18 in the third-place match at the state tournament in Cape Girardeau.

Sluggers Sophie Straatmann (190 kills) and Diana Pfiefer (160 kills) have graduated along with all-around standout Paige Lynn, Abby's sister.

But the cupboard is far from bare.

Abby Lynn, who is headed to the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, returns to run the offense. She finished with a team-high 794 assists last season.

Eckelkamp, a three-year starter, will anchor the defense.

Abby Lynn and Eckelkamp have known each other since they were toddlers and they want to make their senior season something special.

"We're both ready for this," Eckelkamp said. "She was the leader on her club team and I was the leader on my club team. We both know how to lead."

Sophomore Ella Brinkmann is back to trigger the attack. She finished with a team-best 346 kills last season and really played well during the postseason run. Brinkmann had 20 kills and 11 service points in a 25-13, 27-29, 25-18 win over Incarnate Word in the quarterfinal round.

Both Lynn and Eckelkamp are ready for the challenge. They are also excited about their new coach.

"At open gym, we got used to each other and learned how to communicate." Lynn said. "We have a lot of work to do because there are a lot of newcomers on the team. But it shouldn't take us too long to get into rhythm."

Borgia opens the season Sept. 3 at home against Helias.

Steiger began his first practice by moving the girls outside for a one-mile run in the 95-degree heat. He wanted to see who kept in shape during the summer.

"Most of us know what we have to do to be successful," Eckelkamp said. "And that starts today."

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