PAXTON -- Last year, Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School's volleyball team won its first Sangamon Valley Conference regular-season title since 2012.
The Panthers shared the conference regular-season championship with Cissna Park and Watseka. They also reached the 25-win mark for the first time since 2012.
That PBL team said goodbye to six seniors on graduation day, including all-Sangamon Valley Conference first-teamer Katelyn Crabb and all-SVC honorable mention Aubree Bruns, but will say welcome back to several of its varsity players from last year.
"We have a lot of returning players who saw action last year in varsity matches," PBL head coach Lindsay Stalowy said. "We are returning a lot of our position (players)."
Among the returners are sopohomore outside hitter Addison Oyer and senior setter Abbie Schmidt, each of whom were named to the all-SVC first team last year. Defensive specialist/libero Makayla Klann, who was named to the all-SVC second team, returns for her junior year.
"I'm looking for them to be leaders, and I trust their ability and their work ethic over the summer, that they got better and they're going to roll right into this opening week and really work to lead their team," Stalowy said. "I'm really excited to see what they can do this year."
Other returning varsity players include junior middle hitter Jasmine Miles, junior setter Makenna Klann and junior right-side hitter Brooke Walder.
"We have three more players who have varsity playing experience and who will fill into some leadership roles as well," Stalowy said.
The Panthers will start their season in the Timberwolf Tip-Off at Cissna Park.
They will face Milford at 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, Fisher at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27 and Armstrong-Potomac at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 29.
After a match at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley on Tuesday, Sept. 3, PBL will make its SVC debut at Watseka at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5.
"We look forward to every single match," Stalowy said. "We just want to improve from our last match and really work every single match. We're not going to take any opponent for granted. We're ready to get started, and we're going to play hard every single match."
One addition to the schedule this year is a match at Tolono Unity High School on Tuesday, 7 p.m.
"We picked up another (Class) 3A school that is a completitive school, so we're looking forward to adding another competitive opponent," Stalowy said.
The Panthers' last regional title was in 2004. Last year, they lost in the IHSA Class 2A Gilman Iroquois West Regional semifinals in three sets to El Paso-Gridley to finish their season with a record of 25-10.
The last time PBL played in a regional title match was in 2012.
"Our goal is to improve in the postseason," Stalowy said. "As always, the goal is to go as far as we can in the postseason, but aside from that, every single regular-season match, the goal is just going to be to show up and compete and put a competitive game together."