Saturday night in Bainbridge, the eight SVC schools got together for the 2010 volleyball preview. Each match consisted of two games to 21 (they start the scoreboard at a 4-4 tie and still played to 25) and the two teams played two sets.
Like any sport, many SVC volleyball coaches mixed and matched their lineups throughout the night not showing everything to the league and allowing their entire rosters to get a taste of varsity volleyball. In volleyball - a game that relies so much on organization, teamwork, timing, and chemistry, it can really lead to some inconsistent play.
What fans do see even in a preview setting is the individual improvements around the league as well as some of the newcomers to the league. This was quite evident in the nightâ€™s first match-up between host Paint Valley and the Lady Pioneers of Zane Trace. Zane Trace is anchored by their senior setter Jenna Wiget. Wiget no longer has last yearâ€™s Player of the Year Jess Roepke to set up; however, she does have several athletic hitters at the net including freshman Haley Carle who is sure to make an impact in this yearâ€™s league race. For Paint Valley, the Bearcats played 15 kids at the preview so it was tough to gauge where they are at going into the season. They do return a great athlete in Abbie Walls who is going to play libero this season. They also have a solid freshman in Taylor Baker who appears to be one of the setters in Coach Knightâ€™s 6-2 offense. As for Saturdayâ€™s action, Zane Trace rolled in both sets.
In the second match between Piketon and Westfall, I thought Piketon appeared to be much more athletic than a year ago. They return Alex Southworth and now insert freshman Aleah Pelphrey giving the Lady Redstreaks two 6-0, all-around athletes who can really impact the game in a big way. As for Westfall, the Lady Mustangs split their lineup making it tough to truly see what their team will look like come Tuesday night. The biggest thing that caught my attention was a healthy Olivia Cobb. A year ago as a freshman Cobb was solid when able to play, but she battled injuries. This year she appears to be getting off the floor extremely well, and I believe she is ready for a monster season. In this match, the two teams split the two sets with Piketon winning the first and Westfall winning the second.
Adena and Unioto took the floor in match number three. Adena was very impressive as they have a long list of things to be excited about this season. The Lady Warriors welcome back setter Cadie Cory to run their 5-1 offense after Cory missed all of last season with a knee injury. Senior Hannah Halcomb shows her great all-around volleyball skill as she after setting the Warriors all the way to the state finals a year ago will now wear the different colored jersey at the libero position. Adena will be without Kelsey Bielanow due to injury, so hitters like Jenny Grigsby, Olivia Arledge, and a very impressive sophomore Alyssa Kennedy will share the role of carrying the offensive load for the Lady Warriors. As for Unioto, they appear to have a lot of pieces in place to have a great season. They have great size and athleticism at the net led by Madison Davis. The lefty Davis is joined by great size including Hannah Miller, Sydney Coman, and Jenna Carman. My biggest concern here is their ability to consistently allow their hitters to attack. The Tanks are bringing along some setters who are new to the varsity level, and outside of Madison Trainer and Kristen McCarty, they could have some trouble passing the ball consistently. In fairness to Unioto, they were defending Adenaâ€™s hitting attack and returning Adenaâ€™s serving, so it may not be as big of issue as it appeared to be Saturday night. As for Saturdayâ€™s scoreboard, Adena took both sets in this third preview match-up.
In the nightcap, Southeastern and Huntington split two sets with Southeastern winning the first set and Huntington winning the second. The Panthers are led by some great athletes like Merrilee Dresbach and Brianna Weese, but the girl who really caught my eye was a much improved sophomore in Morgan Jones. Jones looked a lot more comfortable at the net than a year ago and looks like she is going to be a major difference-maker for Southeastern this season. As for Huntington, Megan Fultz returns as one of the elite players in the conference and Jackie Kellough returns as well. The Lady Huntsmen also have a few role players that can impact the game at the net, but their major question mark will be their ability to consistently pass and set to allow these elite players at the net to attack.
As for my predictions, it is tough to say off of tonightâ €™s action. Adena without question is the major favorite to win another gold volleyball, but after that, you could make an argument for four â€“ maybe even five â€“ teams to finish in that two hole. I donâ€™t know if this yearâ €™s league is going to provide as good of volleyball as the SVC fans are accustomed to seeing in years past, but I do think the parity in the middle and bottom of the league will provide us all with some four and five-set thrillers.