There’s plenty of good news when it comes to the Riverdale High School volleyball program.
For starters, after a 4-13 finish during coach Roni Hipp’s debut season in 2006, the Raiders have averaged 21 wins a year and qualified for the state playoffs six straight times.
Despite graduating seven players, Riverdale’s 2013 squad boasts a bevy of talent, led by 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker and right side hitter Chenelle Walker, a University of Iowa commit.
The bad news for the Raiders can be summed up in two words: Fort Myers.
In the past seven-plus seasons, Riverdale is 0-16 against the Green Wave, including four consecutive district championship game losses from 2009-12. That span saw Fort Myers advance to the state final four each year, losing in the title game on three occasions.
“I know that we’re a good program,” Hipp said.
“But it’s tough when you’re in the same district with Fort Myers who goes to the finals every year.
“I tell our girls they can’t be as good as they want to unless they can go through one of the best teams in the state. In a way, it helps us because we find out where we are every time we play them.”
The Raiders (3-0) will get their first chance to snap their long skid against Fort Myers when they host the Green Wave on Sept. 17. If they do, Walker undoubtedly will be one of the deciding factors.
“I’ve definitely never had anybody as physically talented as Chenelle,” Hipp said. “She’s phenomenal in the front row.
“Beyond that, the No. 1 thing is that she’s always happy. I’ve never seen her not want to do more than what you ask of her.”
Doing more is what Walker appears to do best. The 17-year-old is a member of a rapidly shrinking group — the three-sport high school athlete. In addition to volleyball, Walker also plays basketball and competes in track and field for Riverdale.
A couple of years ago, when it became apparent she’d have the opportunity to play collegiate volleyball, Walker said she considered giving up the other two sports.
“But I play them because I love them,” she said. “They all complement each other. They help me jump higher and become a better overall athlete.
“I’ve noticed that some volleyball players who play the sport exclusively their whole lives, they get kind of tired of it.”
Walker does play volleyball nearly year-round, joining the USA South club team once high school season ends. That often results in her practicing until 9 p.m. during the winter and spring while also balancing a rigorous academic load as a member of Riverdale’s International Baccalaureate program.
“It does get a bit complicated,” said Walker, who selected Iowa, in part, because of its pharmacy program. “But it’s all about time management.”
Walker said she’s approached her final season with the Raiders with a new mindset.
“It’s a totally different mentality as a senior,” she said. “I’m trying to be a really strong leader and help my team through the hard times and the good times.”
* Coach: Rene’ Van Horn (fifth season)
* 2012 record: 11-13
* Key players lost: Brittney Benvie, Ali Nicloy
* Key players returning: Jr. MH Kristina Kayatta, Fr. OH Amanda Gross, Sr. RH Machaela Sheffield
* Coach’s outlook: Talent runs deep in several positions. Looking forward to seeing how the hard work in the offseason will pay off for our players.
* Coach: Jeremy Ridgeo (first season)
* 2012 record: 16-12
* Key players lost: Ashley Stewart, Mallory Fry, Kallie Greten
* Key players returning: Sr. S Ashlyn Brown, S. L Alena Hernandez, Sr. MH Emily Hudson, Sr. MH Lauren Sheeley
* Coach’s outlook: Verot returns a significant number of seniors, three of which have several years of varsity experience, and a few others who will be expected to step into important roles and contribute throughout the season.
* Coach: Carrie Lundy (sixth season)
* 2012 record: 19-7
* Key players lost: Becca French, Emma Galeana, Jamie Grillo
* Key players returning: Sr. L Jessie Blaze, Sr. OH Carol Marie Galloway, So. MH Caroline Flaharty, So. OH Spenser Hornung, So. S Courtney Halle
* Coach’s outlook: Aggressive serving and defense will be the keys to a successful season for our young and undersized squad. The effort and commitment shown in the preseason has us confidently poised for an exciting season.
* Coach: Daniel Selvey (first season)
* 2012 record: 11-12
* Key players lost: Callie Davis, Brooke Paulsen
* Key players returning: Sr. OH Haley Von Harten, Sr. OH Shelby Klare, Sr. S Sam Damico
* Coach’s outlook: Cypress is carrying just seven players on their roster, they still hope to make some big improvements on last year’s team. Ultimately they hope to challenge Lely for a district championship and a berth in the regional quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.
East Lee County
* Coach: Todd Alley (first season)
* 2012 record: 0-21
* Key players lost: Five of six starters graduated
* Key player returning: Sr. DS Natalie Alexander
* Coach’s outlook: This season will be a new beginning for East Lee County, with a focus on fundamental techniques, team spirit, and leadership skills. Five of our thirteen varsity players are freshmen, which three of them are starting.
* Coach: Barry Harris (10th season)
* 2012 record: 13-11
* Key players lost: Ashley Baker, Emma Kenline, Hanna Cain
* Key players returning: Sr. OH Melissa Libby, Sr. S/RH Christine Glase, Sr. MB Caitlyn Nicholson, Sr., L/OH Kenzie Stevens, Sr. MB Ana Kirkland
* Coach’s outlook: We have a large group of seniors this year (seven) and most of them have been playing together for at least three years or more, including club and beach volleyball. They should know each other very well both on the court and off the court. We lost some of our height to graduation, but we do have three players at 5-foot-10 (only one plays middle). What we lack in height we will have to make up for in leaping ability, but we will have some difficulty with our net defense and this will put a lot of pressure on our passing.
* Coach: Liz Ferguson (sixth year)
* 2012 record: 25-5
* Key player lost: Shelby Joslin
* Key players returning: Sr. RS Sydney Ferguson, Sr. S Schuyler Moore, Sr. OH Ginny Moore, Sr. L Kasey Reynolds
* Key new player: Jr. OH Savannah Tessier (transfer)
* Coach’s outlook: Although we lost The News-Press Player of the Year, Shelby Joslin to graduation, this could be the best team since the 2007 state championship team due to our talent, chemistry and experience at every position. Our starting lineup will include Schuyler and Ginny Moore, Sydney Ferguson and Kasey Reynolds who have started together on varsity since ninth grade (and never lost a district match). We will have size in the middle with ninth grader, Caroline Forester, and 10th grader, Emily Laquidara. We also have a couple of other senior players, Whitney Foote and Kelsey Smallwood who will play key roles in the upcoming season at various positions along with junior, Savannah Tessier, who will contribute immediately at OH. Our schedule is one of the toughest in the state and will allow our team to test themselves against some great competition before the playoffs begin.
* Coach: Stephanie Martin (19th season)
* 2012 record: 28-4
* Key players lost: Kenzie Gustason, Danielle Matte, Whitney Letourneau, Emily Gear
* Key returning players: Sr. M Chelsea Oliver, Jr. M/OH Briana Correa, Jr. OH Anna Cedarburg
* Coach’s outlook: The Green Wave return a strong junior class. Last year’s team focus was on the defensive side of the ball. This year’s team will be focusing on the offensive side. We have moved up a classification to 7A and will have a new district.
* Coach: Lindsey Childs (first season)
* 2012 record: 12-6
* Key players lost: Braeleen Scott, Amanda Gillyard, Hannah Wherry, Leah Poore
* Key players returning: Sr. OH Kelsey Anders, Sr. L Lauren Gottsch, So. RS/S Taylor Donahue, So. DS/S Kayla Scott
* Coach’s outlook: Two strong senior leaders will lead a young, inexperienced team. This young team is dedicated and shows a lot of potential, as they hope to continue last year’s winning season.
* Coach: Renee Roggow (third season)
2012 record: 3-18
* Key players lost: Olivia Lugo, Marina Zuspann, Mikaela Kelley, Morgan Kuchman
* Key players returning: Sr. OH Kalli Roggow, Jr. OH Jennifer Fasano
* Coach’s outlook: With only two returning varsity players, we see this season as a building year. We have several new faces and many incoming freshmen which will allow us the ability to start creating a foundation for this volleyball program. The two returning players are strong athletes who will be good role models and leaders to our novice players. We’re looking forward to watching the growth this team will experience throughout the season.
* Coach: Lori Perkins (eighth season)
* 2012 record: 15-14
* Key players lost: Andrea Lutkenhaus, Kayla Keller
* Key players returning: Sr. OH Abbie O’Ferrell, Jr. L Logann White, Sr. OH Rachael Reinbott, Jr. S Victoria Bass, Sr. OH Meagan Watkins
* Coach’s outlook: Our defense will be our strength again, and we are continuing to work on our ability to serve receive and sideout. We had a good showing at camp this summer in Tampa. We will rely on first team, All Area returner Abbie O’Ferrell to lead the offense again, along with our junior setter Victoria Bass.
* Coach: Janelle Laux (third season)
* Key players lost: Shay Parson, Mia Bair
* Key players returning: Sr. S Krysten Topliff, Jr. M Kayla Welsh
* Coach’s outlook: Having such a large amount of returning players this year, we are very hopeful and excited to continue building and growing together as a team. Since we have already meshed as a team, we are looking forward to perfecting our skills and advancing as a solid team.
* Coach: Bridget Zalesak (first season)
* 2012 record: 5-14
* Key players lost: Alia Mann, Brittany Cannova, Kady Ennis
* Key players returning: MB/OH Heather Gillions, S/OH Summer Greenwell, RS Kaitlyn Adams
* Coach’s outlook: Incoming freshman Aaliyah Hunter is coming in from Challenger Middle with experience as an outside hitter and defensive specialist. We have a different look this year, as Mariner will be running with two setters. Kennedy Adams, a senior from Island Coast has joined our Lady Tritons. Our lack in height for front-row players is a challenge for us, but our hard work in playing scrappy and smart is our focus.
North Fort Myers
* Coach: Nancy Eskay (first season)
* 2012 record: 12-7
* Key players lost: Heather Getman, Erica Eaton
* Key players returning: Lindsey Stramel, Katelyn Kelly, Madison Prusak, Bailey Harris
* Coach’s outlook: Historically, ball control and serve receive have been two of North’s strengths. This year the team is young and is in a rebuilding phase. As the team has time in the gymnasium and begins to mature and grow into their positions, they will start to compete at a higher level.
* Coach: James Mikolajczyk (third season)
* 2012 record: 19-8
* Key players lost: Marion Chlipala, Natalie Westendorf
* Key players returning: Jr. OH Larra Bickelhaupt, Sr. S Emma Nelson, Jr. RS Tiffany Schramm, Jr. MH Danielle Bebber, Sr. L Alexis Robbins
* Coach’s outlook: The Sharks return a number of key players from last season’s team that pushed ECS to five sets during their district semifinal matchup. The Sharks look to use that experience to take the next step this postseason. Oasis still has OH Larra Bickelhaupt leading them on offense and defense. One question that still needs to be answered is which players will step up to fill the hole left by the departure of OH Marion Chlipala and MH Natalie Westendorf.
* Coach: Roni Hipp (eighth season)
* 2012 record: 21-6
* Key players lost: Cydney Niedermeyer, Cindy Moyer, Tessa Mabry
* Key players returning: Chenelle Walker, Abby Mast, Caysie Payne
* Coach’s outlook: With eight core players from last year’s team returning, there will be an influx of younger players that will have an opportunity to contribute. Settling into a consistent lineup will be a key to success this season.
South Fort Myers
* Coach: Sarai Miller (first year)
* Key players lost: Kristen Duguay, Lauren Morrimano, Melanie Vargas
* Key players returning: So. OH/MB Andrea DeCastro, Sr. DS Brianna Ondrovic, Sr. MB Tori Uebelacker, Jr. S Cynthia Johnson
* Coach’s outlook: The Wolfpack volleyball team has great potential to build a strong program this season. With only two seniors on the team, several underclassmen will gain experience playing at the varsity level. Our rigorous practices and focus on team unity will prepare us for our competitive schedule. We are hungry to establish a top-notch volleyball program, and are putting in the work and effort to do so.
Southwest Florida Christian
* Coach: Justin Altman (second year)
* 2012 record: 18-7
* Key players lost: Kayla Doerstling, Mikayla Hetherington, Savannah Tessier, Taylor Codol
* Key players returning: Nicole Nicely, Ally Frith, Abby Ferrell, Meghan Todd
* Coach’s outlook: We are a small team in stature, but scrappy and quick on defense. Ball control on serve receive and finishing the rally will be the most important aspect toward our success.