With seven returning seniors and several good newcomers, the Carthage Lady Bulldogs have a very good shot at repeating the success they had in 2018 — namely a district championship.

But it’s the way they finished — a 3-2 loss to state semifinalist China Spring in the area round of the playoffs that second-year Coach Dawn Stewart wants to build on.

“The last game last year left a bad taste in our mouths,” Stewart said. “We’ve watched it and we have to learn from it. We never want to get complacent or satisfied. We know what it’s going to take.”

Having a large group of seniors off a 29-7 team should pay immediate dividends, but finding just the right mix may take a little time as Stewart is doing some experimenting.

“We are going to play hard,” she said. “We have seven returners who are hungry and have worked hard in the offseason. They can all play multiple positions and they’re a really talented team.

“We will run a fast offense and be very scrappy on defense. The girls get along and really pull for each other. We’ll use some of this time early in the season to find out what works best.”

Topping the list of returning players is senior middle blocker Cami Hicks, who has committed to Lamar. She had 265 kills and 105 blocks last season.

Senior outside hitter Kristen Stewart had 205 digs, 50 aces, 155 service points and 150 receptions; libero Chesney Baker had 408 digs, 58 aces, 188 points and 500 receptions; outside hitter McKenna Zett had 205 kills, 150 digs and 52 blocks; and defensive specialist Addison Surratt had 205 digs, 50 aces, 155 points, 150 receptions. Outside hitter Jada McLin and outside hitter Kinsey King round out the seniors.

“Cami is just such a force at the net,” Stewart said. “Chesny and Addie have really given us some back row strngth.”

Top newcomers include Faith Kruebbe, a 6-0, sophomore middle hitter; Makhai Lewis, a 5-10, sophomore middle blocker; and Sadie Smith, a 5-8 sophomore outside hitter.

“We just need to put all the talent together and work as one,” said Stewart, who has a 222-109 record.