Ursuline Academy lost only four matches in 2014 and three were to Mount Notre Dame, including the regional final.
But the Lions return four starters, including third-team all-state selection, senior libero/defensive specialist Avery Naylor.
Sophomore middle blocker Ali Thompson, Naylor’s cousin, is also back to the starting lineup along with senior setters/right-sides Kelly Cameron and Alyssa Steller.
Senior right-side Jordan Fry has only played volleyball for two years and is committed to play at Kentucky, according to Ursuline coach Jeni Case. Senior defensive specialist/libero Claire Tulisiak will also be a key player for the Lions.
“We have our setters and libero back from last year,” Case said of her team’s strengths. “We have lots of senior leadership. “We have a lot of players that can play multiple positions.”
After splitting the Miami Valley Conference Scarlet division title with Cincinnati Christian last year, another title might not be in the cards for Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy this year.
The Eagles, who are now coached by Lisa Schaad, lose Rachel Wichmann, the team’s leader with 116 kills. She was also named the Scarlet’s player of the year.
Schaad, who has spent 18 years at Elevation Volleyball Club in Mason, is working to install a new culture of defense and ball control.
“It’s going to be different than what they are used to,” she said.
Senior libero Allison Jenkins is the unit’s only returning starter from last season and is the coach’s go-to for on-court leadership. Having a veteran play libero is also key for Schaad’s new mantra.
Jenkins was a second-team all-MVC performer last season.
The coach believes junior setter/hitter Lexie Kuczinski will be an impact player offensively for the Eagles this season.
“We’re looking at this season as a marathon,” Schaad said. “We’re hoping to improve as the season progresses.”
Back for a second year to lead the Sycamore volleyball girls is Brittney Billiter.
The Lady Aves finished 15-9 last season and were 5-4 in the Greater Miami Conference. Sycamore’s had three straight winning seasons and last won the GMC in 2003.
Returning starters for Billiter are senior middle hitter Patty Blood, junior right-side hitter Stephanie Mather and sophomore setter Abbie Hughes. Others to watch are junior middle blocker Fanta Kouyate and sophomore setter/defensive specialist Lexi Grannen.
“We are young,” Billiter said. “There’s a lot of untapped potential and it is going to be fun to watch them mature and come together.”
Sophomore setter Hughes will make the transition from sand to shoes as she recently placed second in a major sand tournament. Seniors in addition to Patty Blood are Oksana Schornak, Lydia Deppert and Camila Cardenas.
Upcoming home games for Sycamore are against Middletown Sept. 10 and Anderson Sept. 12. The Lady Aves travel to Hamilton Sept. 15.
The Indians of Cincinnati Country Day stumbled to a 6-11 mark and a 5-8 record inside the Miami Valley Conference last year.
Haven Watson, Emma Rust, Kayla Chisholm and Alayna Odom all received recognition from the MVC last season. Ashley Snell coaches the Indians.
As far as Indian Hill High School volleyball is concerned, three’s a crowd.
The Lady Braves finished in a three-way tie last season at 10-4 in the league with Madeira and Taylor. In front of the trio in the Cincinnati Hills League was undefeated champion Wyoming. Indian Hill last won the CHL under veteran coach Ellen Hughes in 2008.
Starters back for the fall run are senior setter Cassidy Zang, senior outside hitter Ryan Wilkins, senior defensive specialist Allie Kist, junior outside hitter Karen Folz and sophomore libero Teensy Zang.
Cassidy Zang was CHL first team in 2014, with Karen Folz making honorable mention.
“We’ll be a very strong defensive team with great ball control,” Hughes said. “We’ll also be a strong serving team. Cassidy (Zang) runs a solid offense and has great decision-making capabilities.”
Also on the squad are juniors Olivia Marrocco and Christina Shannon, sophomores Allison Kennebeck and Annabelle Berwanger and freshmen Nataly Joseph and Haley Henry.
Indian Hill has Mariemont up ahead Sept. 3 and is at Taylor Sept. 8.
The dynasty that is Mount Notre Dame volleyball continues on East Columbia Avenue as Joe Burke comes into his seventh year as head coach looking for a third consecutive Division I state title. The Cougars have had 17 consecutive winning seasons and went 27-2 in 2014, including 10-0 in the Girls Greater Catholic League.
Five senior starters are back for Burke in senior middle blockers Dani Szczepanski and Christine Carroll, senior outside hitters Sydney Mukes and Sabrina Wolf and senior defensive specialist Erin McCarthy. Senior setter Cara Smith and senior right-side hitter Katelin Marklay add depth to the MND attack.
Szczepanski was first team GGCL last season, with Mukes making second team and Carroll honorable mention. Szczepanski has committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Mukes to Louisiana State, Carroll to the University of South Carolina-Aiken and Wolf to the University of Cincinnati. Sophomore Natalie Steibel is also considered a top prospect.
“Going into this season, I like the experience we return,” Burke said. “Offensively, we return four out of our top five kill leaders led by Sydney Mukes (271) and Dani Szczepanski (249). Defensively, I believe that we’ll have a formidable block and will constantly improve on defense daily.”
The always-demanding MND schedule includes an upcoming home game with Seton Sept. 3 before the Cougars take to the road for a Sept. 5 tournament at Toledo St. Ursula.