CHILLICOTHE – The competitiveness of the Scioto Valley Conference was on full display in 2013, with four of its volleyball teams reaching the district tournament, three advancing to regionals, and one making it to the Elite Eight.
Not much has changed in 2014. Of those four teams, the three that went the deepest in postseason play — Adena, Unioto and Westfall — each graduated only one player. It appears it is going to be another season-long battle with few easy conference matches.
• Coach: Laura Smith
• Key loss: Bridgette Scaggs
• Key returners: Jenna Hutton, Jessica Hutton, Karli Bower, Kristen Dawson, Carly Carroll
• Key newcomer: Erica Marshall
• Insight: Early this past season, Smith was uncertain about her team’s capabilities.However, after making it to the regional finals in 2013 and returning nine lettermen this year — a gift Smith said she isn’t sure that she’s had in her 30 years of coaching — the Warriors have high hopes of making a deeper postseason run this season. Smith has pushed her players much harder this preseason after realizing how capable they are.
• Coach’s quote:“I think sometimes they get irritated with me, but that’s OK. They need that,” said Smith, who is one win away from passing Char Sharp and earning sole possession of third place for most wins with 618. “We’ve done some progressions with them in practices and tested their problem-solving skills, stuff like that that gives them something difficult so they learn how to handle their frustrations.”
• Coach: Jessica Rodgers
• Key loss: Kayla Tackett
• Key returners: Hannah Phillips, Amanda Curry, Karley Flowers, Kelly Fuchs, Emily Walker, Hannah Wallace.
• Key newcomers: N/A
• Insight: Losing libero Tacket from 2013’s team, which reached the regional semifinals, is a big loss for Westfall. Rodgers said Tackett will be hard to replace, but the coach has seen great performances from several players while filling the role. The team has great height up front with seniors Amanda Curry (6-foot-3,) junior Hannah Phillips (6-1) and multiple players at 5-10. Unfortunately, Westfall has had quite a few injuries already. Flowers and Phillips sprained their ankles on the same day, and Fuchs is day-to-day with a rotator cuff injury. Rodgers hasn’t let up, knowing her team will have to be at its best to fend off the rest of the conference.
• Coach’s quote: “I think I am a little harder on them because most of these girls were with me last year and did play a lot of varsity,” said Rodgers, who is in her second season with Westfall. “I do have higher expectations and I do tell them they have a large target on them. I know everyone wants to beat everyone, but they want to beat us because we won the league last year. We only lost one girl, so I’m sure people are really looking to take us down.”
• Coach: Aaron Ridenour
• Key loss: Halle White
• Key returners: Alexis Overly, Taylor Overly, Makenna Steinbrook, Emily Ward, Kassidey Winegardner, Karee Neff
• Key newcomers: N/A
• Insight: Although the Shermans finished second in the conference this past season, they were the team to have the longest postseason run. (They lost to Jonathan Alder in the Elite Eight.) Unioto will have the same starting lineup except for White, who has since graduated. Ridenour said Unioto will continue to be an offensive team with kills coming from any player on the court, but he thinks the defense is where the team has improved.
• Coach’s quote: “Our goal is the same goal as a lot of the top teams,” Ridenour said. “It’s to win the SVC. That’s a challenging goal. No matter how good your team is, that’s a tough goal. We know every conference match you have to come ready to play. It gets you ready for the postseason.”
• Coach: Tina Magill
• Key losses: Haile Ingram, Brooke Happeney, Layne Beasley
• Key returners: Rikki Magill, Dylana Gragg, Alayna Lytle, Brookelyn Neighbors
• Key newcomers: Carolane Cox, Jillian Snyder, Alisha Long
• Insight: The Huntsmen enter the season with the same goals as in 2013: a fourth-place finish and a few wins against the top-tier teams. The three graduated seniors will be tough to replace, but Magill said she thinks juniors Snyder and Cox and sophomore Long will fill in nicely. The Huntsmen also return the three-time defensive player of the year and 2013’s All-District Player of the Year in Lytle. Magill said the team seems more defensive-minded, which will be a change for Huntington volleyball.
• Coach’s quote: “I feel in the past we’ve always been better offensively than defensively,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to see us hold the volleys long enough for our offense to put the ball down for us. If we show up for a game, I think we’re capable of giving the top teams their best games. I think we’re going to be really strong this year.”
• Coach: Allie Kelley
• Key losses: Aleah Pelphrey, Kalen Jenkins, Morgan Merritt, Lauren Hopkins, Madi Chandler
• Key returners: Payton Reuter, Erykah Scott, Emily Legg, Katie Ward
• Key newcomers: Camryn Chandler, Madison Conley, Tylar Reno
• Insight: The Redstreaks graduated half of their 2013 roster, so they enter 2014 with a new look. Piketon no longer has the height it had up front in years passed, but Kelley said the team has added quickness. The goal this season is to improve upon the 11-13 record this past season.
• Coach’s quote: “We have the best passing and serving than we’ve ever had while I’ve been here,” said Kelley, who is in her fifth season. “The girls are strong and they can jump, but they’re going to have to make up for it. We struggle in the front against their height. We have to hit around them and not over them. I have high hopes for them. It’s a brand new team out there. When they click, it’s going to be really cool.”
• Coach: Lori Dresbach
• Key loss: Riley Baxter
• Key returners: Logan Goebel, Emily Dresbach
• Key newcomers: Ella Skeens, Rachel Collins
• Insight: The Panthers are one of the teams in the middle of the pack and focus on getting better each match. For a program looking to improve, the competitiveness of the SVC does further development.
• Coach’s quote: “(The SVC) is incredible,” Southeastern assistant coach Brittany Leeson said. “Three or four teams went to regionals. Now we just have to want to be better. I keep telling them that if they want that position, they have to fight for it.”
• Coach: Lori Koker
• Key losses: Hayley Carly, Kylan Strausbaugh, Jillian Pontius
• Key returners: Ally Flechtner, Alyx Chaffin, Aston Ward, Kelly Dresbach.
• Key newcomer: Katie Unger
• Insight: The Pioneers have lost some key seniors from 2013, but Koker said she thinks this might be a more balanced team. Chaffin will start for her fourth consecutive season, and Flechtner also is expected to have an impact. Koker said she will have many players seeing consistent varsity time for the first time in their high school careers, but is excited to see how they come together with the returners and develop and improve.
• Coach’s quote: “Every day we want to improve,” Koker said. “We have returning talent in some areas and a lot of youth, but we just want to get better every game.”
• Coach: Mallory Hefner
• Key losses: Taylor Baker, Kamren Bobb, Erin Riley, Faith Davis, Laci Stanforth.
• Key returners: Erin Mills, Serena Gale, Mikayla Newland
• Key newcomers: Kareah Penrod
• Insight: The Bearcats are young this season. Similar to Piketon, Paint Valley does not have much height, so being in the right place defensively and taking advantage of hits will be key.
• Coach’s quote: “It’s a young team. We’re still learning,” said Hefner, entering her first season at Paint Valley. “We have a lot of girls who haven’t had a lot of playing time at the varsity level. We’re a little more on the shorter side. I think our strong set is going to be our offense and the serve receive. Then on defense really covering the floor.”