Lady Bulldogs open Thursday at Columbia Hickman.

Julie Carver knows a thing or two about winning.

And as she enters her second season as head coach of the Rolla High School volleyball team, it's apparent that the Lady Bulldogs are buying into her philosophy.

Flirting with the .500 mark in Carver's first season here, Rolla's goal is to become a winner in 2013.

The Lady Bulldogs are scheduled to open their season on Thursday, Sept. 5 at Columbia against Hickman High School (6 p.m.).

Rolla showed steady improvement and ended with a 13-17 record last season. And during a successful summer – which included first-place and second-place finishes in Licking Shootout sessions and a semifinal berth in the rugged Lake of the Ozarks Team Camp – the Lady Bulldog players displayed marked improvement in team play and aggressiveness.

"We've got to be over .500 (this year)," said Carver, who was a state championship coach at Holden High School prior to coming to Rolla. "I'd like to be pushing 20 wins, although it's a pretty tough schedule we play. But I'd like to be close to that."

This fall Carver has six varsity starters returning.

"We definitely had a good summer," she said. "We expected to have improvement and as we improved we're still trying to learn to compete. And how to win. We're trying to play to win, and playing aggressively usually positions things to happen."

Back at setter is junior Kelsi James while middle hitters are all-region junior Aarika Froehlich and senior Emily Dodge.

Battling at libero are juniors Jessie Kaczmarek and Sofie Luna.

Senior Gabe Otte returns as one outside hitter while sophomore Vasilisa Shamina is at the other outside hitter spot.

The hitting back position will be manned by sophomores Aideen McEnaney or Cami Ryckman.

Sophomore defensive specialists include Caroline Victor and Brynn Proffitt.

"Emily Dodge has made big strides," Carver said. "Emily and Aarika in the middle will definitely be our strength. Gabe has worked really hard on her defense and Kelsi has worked on her footwork and consistency.

"And we have several who are developing a jump-serve that will help us. Jessie went to about five camps this summer and is working on her serve. They've all worked hard this summer."

Carver says the Ozark Conference race is going to be as rugged as usual.

"Lebanon and (Springfield) Kickapoo will be tough," she said. "(Springfield) Glendale was so young last year; they're going to be good this year. And Waynesville seems to always give us problems."

2013 RHS volleyball schedule:
Sept. Columbia Hickman, 6 p.m.
Sept. 10...St. James, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 12...Springfield Kickapoo, 5 p.m.
Sept. 14...West Plains Tourney, 9 a.m.
Sept. 17...Jefferson City, 5 p.m.
Sept. Joplin, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 21...Helias Freshman Tourney, 8:30 a.m.
Sept. 21...Jefferson City JV Inv., 8:30 a.m.
Sept. Jeff. City Helias, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. Springfield Parkview, 5 p.m.
Sept. 28...Rolla Invitational, 9 a.m.
Sept. 30...Licking, 6 p.m.
Oct. 3...West Plains, 5 p.m.
Oct. 5...Waynesville JV Tourney, tba
Oct. Owensville, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. Salem, 5 p.m.
Oct. 10...Lebanon, 5 p.m.
Oct. Springfield Hillcrest, 5 p.m.
Oct. 17...Waynesville, 5 p.m.
Oct. 19...Eldon Tourney, 9 a.m.
Oct. 19...Waynesville Freshman Tourney, 9 a.m.
Oct. Springfield Glendale, 4:30 p.m.
Oct. Camdenton, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 26...West Plains JV Tourney, 9 a.m.
Oct. 28-29...District Tourney, tba