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Emily Clinton serves during Friday’s practice.

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GIBSON CITY -- Last year was a step in the right direction for the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School volleyball team.

The Falcons' 10-17 record marked the first team they reached the 10-win mark since 2011.

“It was a big accomplishment for the program," GCMS head coach Taylor Rubarts said.

According to Rubarts, GCMS has set its goals higher as it looks to get to the 15-win mark.

"This year, we’re looking for that .500 mark," Rubarts said. "That’s a goal they’re definitely looking to obtain this year.”

Three seniors, four juniors and three sophomores make up GCMS's varsity team. Five of those players were varsity starters last year, with two others coming off the bench.

“We have almost everybody back, except for two of our starters, from last year, so we’re hoping for some good things," Rubarts said. "This first week of practice has been really strong and competitive. It’s probably one of the best starts that we’ve had in a couple of years. We’re excited to see what they bring to the table this year.”

Overall, GCMS has 24 players in its program.

“That’s one of the higher numbers that we’ve had," Rubarts said.

The program includes 10 freshmen.

“That’s the biggest we’ve had in a while. That was nice to see,” Rubarts said.

The Falcons' senior class is made up of Emily Clinton, Mady Schutte and Rylee Tompkins.

“Schutte’s been our setter for last three years. Emily has played everywhere across the front row," Rubarts said. "She’s been on the right side, outside, in the middle. It has just depended on what we’ve needed. Rylee has been one of our hitting subs for the past couple of years as well. We’re looking to see her more in the middle and the right side this year in that role.”

Junior Jessica Freehill has started since her freshman year.

“I’m looking to see her really explode this year as an upperclassmen," Rubarts said. "We’re really looking for her to take a leadership role on the floor this year.”

Fellow junior Lindsey Heinz and sophomore Payton Allen started last year as well for GCMS. Alex Kafer, another junior, will be a defensive specialist.

“Ryleigh Brown will also be a strong hitter for us this year as well," Rubarts said.

A couple of sophomores -- Kira Fuoss and Molly Kroon -- will be looked upon to provide some depth for GCMS.

“They’ll also be good subs for us off the bench in every aspect of the game,” Rubarts said.

The Falcons added an early-season tournament to their schedule. They will participate in the Timberwolf Tip-Off at Cissna Park, facing Schlarman at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, Hoopeston Area at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27, and Cissna Park at 7:30 p.m. later that Thursday.

“That’ll be a good start for us to see how everything comes together before the regular season," Rubarts said. "It worked out this year that we were able to put that into our schedule. We’re really excited to have that time to work through some different lineups before jumping into the regular season.”

Last year, GCMS finished 3-9 in the Heart of Illinois Conference.

“We’re definitely looking to go .500 or above in conference play this year," Rubarts said. "That’s one of the goals that the girls have set.”

After a nonconference regular-season match at home against Paxton-Buckley-Loda on Tuesday, Sept. 3, GCMS will make its HOIC debut at Deer Creek-Mackinaw on Monday, Sept. 9.

On Sept. 10, GCMS will go on the road to face a Flanagan-Cornell squad that reached the IHSA Class 1A super-sectionals last year.

A home date with Fisher (Sept. 12) and another road date at Fieldcrest (Sept. 17) will continue the HOIC schedule before the Falcons face Eureka on the road. Eureka reached the 2A super-sectional round last year.

“The conference is very strong," Rubarts said.