For two-time defending Class 4A state champion Avon, no number carries as much weight as three.
Since the Indiana High School Athletic Association held its first volleyball state championship in 1972, only three schools have won three consecutive state titles.
If coach Scott McQueen’s program intends to join the three-peat ranks of Muncie Central, Muncie Burris and Michigan City Marquette Catholic this season, he said it will start and end with his senior trio of returning starters.
“I’m fortunate enough to have the two best outside hitters in the state. It’s unusual to have two at the caliber of Beth (Prince) and Calle (Weddle),” McQueen said. “And then having Brooke Peters, who can fill in several roles; those are three special players.”
Prince, a 6-3 Illinois commit, has spent the past three seasons solidifying her place in Indiana high school volleyball history.
Named All-American and national freshman of the year, and a three-time all-state selection, she has led the Orioles to three straight state finals appearances and 111 wins. As a junior, she had 447 kills and 154 digs.
The 6-0 Weddle, who is headed to California-Santa Barbara, finished her junior season with 410 kills, 371 serving aces and 228 digs.
Peters, a 5-8 Purdue recruit, recorded 310 digs and 417 serving aces at libero and outside hitter.
Offsetting the loss of four starters, Hannah Eiler, a junior middle hitter, will join the team’s first tandem of freshmen starters in three years — 6-2 middle blocker Jael Johnson and setter Darian Goins.
Prince and Peters were the last freshmen to crack the varsity lineup.
“This senior class has a unique opportunity to continue the legacy, but I think they realize this year is different than the other three,” McQueen said. “It’s a pretty daunting task. There’s a lot of good competition, but it’s a challenge I think the girls are looking forward to.”
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH
Cathedral: Derailed by 4A newcomer Bishop Chatard in the sectional finals last year, the Irish (26-7) are considered serious contenders in 2014. Cathedral’s lineup returns nearly intact for coach Jean Kesterson. The roster is highlighted by 6-5 senior middle hitter Tarah Wylie, 6-1 junior middle hitter Megan Sloan, 6-2 senior middle hitter Sydney Cox (IPFW commit) and 5-6 junior libero Kendall White (Penn State). Nia Parker-Robinson, a 6-2 sophomore outside hitter, is also back in addition to 5-8 sophomore setter Maria Schorr and 6-3 junior middle hitter Audrey Adams.
Carmel: For the second consecutive year, coach Rich Coleman’s Greyhounds finished with a 37-2 record and runners-up to Avon. With four returning starters and plenty of talent to fill in the gaps, Carmel again remains the favorite to challenge out of the north. The Greyhounds will be led by 6-0 senior outside hitter Carly Skjodt (565 kills, 448 digs and 62 blocks), a Michigan commit; 5-10 junior middle hitter Carly Cason; 6-0 senior middle hitter Mckenzie Kiesle (Rhode Island); and 5-7 senior libero Jamie Scherb.
Center Grove: The 4A Trojans finished 21-15 last season and could be ready to win their first regional since 2009. After a year off, 6-3 junior hitter Madison Smeathers (Ohio State) returnswith 5-11 junior setter Taylor Hammill (Auburn) and 6-2 senior middle blocker Alison Line (Illinois State).
Roncalli: Already expecting the return of senior outside hitter Bailey Schnell (309 kills, Western Michigan) and senior libero Samantha Fogg (Indiana), the 4A Rebels (22-11) get another boost with the transfer of Shelbyville’s Anastasia “AJ” Lux. The powerful outside hitter missed last season after right shoulder surgery, but she’s back and has committed to East Tennessee State.
Brebeuf Jesuit: Graduation claimed five from Brebeuf’s starting lineup, but the remaining three will provide the defending Class 3A champion Braves (20-12) with plenty of offense. Senior setter McKena Estes (470 assists, Xavier), returns along with senior middle blocker Courtney Simons (144 kills, Miami of Ohio) and senior outside hitter Olivia Hurst (201 kills and 160 digs).
Best of the Rest: 2A Heritage Christian finished 22-9 last season, winning its second straight sectional title. With a pair of all-state seniors returning in Peyton Fallis (308 kills) and Shelby Henry (264 kills), a run at a third championship is realistic. … Class A Lutheran will have to build around all-state junior Whitney Hoover (331 kills) and sophomore Elise Sombke (369 digs) to repeat its 31-8 record and semistate title appearance from a year ago.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Anna Logan, Bishop Chatard. A standout on the basketball and volleyball court, the 6-1 middle hitter led the Trojans (23-14) with 470 kills and 160 blocks in 2013-14. Named all-America honorable mention by PrepVolleyball.com, Logan was a 3A state champion in 2012 and is committed to Butler.
Hailey Knecht, Shelbyville. A 5-8 libero, Knecht is a game changer. Helping the 3A Golden Bears (15-19) capture their second sectional title in three years, the Western Michigan commit will be a vital senior leader for new coach Chelsea Caldwell-Moore.
Jessica Admire, Franklin. The outside/right side hitter led the Grizzly Cubs (26-8) with 467 kills and added 242 digs and 48 blocks in 2013-14. A key contributor to Franklin’s Johnson County tournament title last October, the 5-10 senior has committed to Butler.
Melanie McHenry, Speedway. After earning all-state honorable mention as a freshman, McHenry propelled the Sparkplugs (34-3) to a 2A semistate berth the next season. The 6-2 outside hitter finished with 656 kills, 65 aces and 361 digs. She recently committed to Louisville and doubles as the place-kicker on Speedway’s football team.
Shavona Cuttino, Ben Davis. The 6-2 middle hitter has committed to Purdue, where she will play for coach Dave Shondell next fall. Like older sister Danielle, a freshman middle blocker for the Boilermakers, did,Shavona plays both basketball and volleyball for the Giants.
Prince, Skjodt honored
Prince and Skjodt have been named to CBS MaxPreps preseason All-American volleyball team. A third player from Indiana, senior Kiley Lingenfelter, New Castle, was also named to the team.