Still the team to beat By Shayne Combs, SVCsportszone.com
Six years of perfection and countingâ€¦that would probably be one reason to call them the team to beat. The fact remains that as long as the amazing streak is alive each Adena team will carry the pressure of extending the streak; however, the 2011 SVC race is only about the current Adena squad and they are good. The Adena roster, which although talented, has been somewhat young the last couple of years, but now it is junior/senior loaded, battle tested, and extremely complete. As I have said in several preview articles on this website before, previews are done on paper, and when you look at this yearâ€™s race on paper, I believe it easy to list the two-shade blue as the favorite.
The Lady Warriors are led by senior setter Cadie Cory. Cory averaged a league best 10 APG last year. Cory also averaged 3.5 digs per game and nearly an ace per game. Cory has many of her favorite targets back with her this season including Olivia Arledge and Jenny Grigsby. Arledge is a force at the net. Now a senior, Arledge returns after posting top-five kills and blocks per game during her junior season. Grigsby brings a lot of experience â€“ and winning - to the court. The junior plays with great efficiency in every aspect of the game. The word efficiency is a great place to start when talking about Adena. The Warriors attack starts with great serving and great defense. Logan Bowdle, who averaged nearly an ace per game a year ago, joins a solid core of passers such as Cara Coy and Michelle Ackley to form a rotation that just doesnâ€™t make very many mistakes.
I think the hardest question to answer in this yearâ€™s league probably comes when talking about the race for second place. Four, maybe five teams all have pieces that have them entering the season with high hopes, but they all have question marks as well. Westfall and Huntington both finished in second a year ago at 11-3. Both teams have several pieces back; however, Huntington lost Megan Fultz to graduation and Westfall lost Hannah Gabriel.
Huntington will now look to Jackie Kellough to carry more of the load and the junior is definitely capable. Kellough was fourth in the SVC in kills last season at just under four per game. Often times filling roles becomes a domino effect and if one piece is missing it can really lead to problems. Kellough appears more than ready to take on her new role, but who for Huntington will step up and take Kelloughâ€™s role. Keep in mind; Fultz and Kellough were one of the best one-two punches in the league last year at almost eight combined kills per game.
For Westfall, the rotation includes familiar names such as Olivia Cobb, Alex Phillips, and Olivia Beavers, but gone is their setter leaving a question for first year head coach Lisa Lightle of who is going to distribute the ball to this good group of hitters. The Mustangs do have some nice young pieces with the size of freshman Amanda Curry and energy and leadership of sophomore Kayla Tackett, but in the end, I think Westfallâ€™s ability to pass and set with great efficiency will tell the story for this team.
Unioto was last yearâ€™s fourth place team at 8-6. With Huntington, Westfall, and Zane Trace all graduating all-league setters, Unioto becomes the one team in this group that does return experience at the setter position. Senior Lauren Stout, who set in Uniotoâ€™s 6-2 offense a year ago, now appears she will get an opportunity to run a 5-1. Even setting just half the time in 2010, Stout still posted a leagueâ €™s sixth best total of nearly five assists per game. Stoutâ€™s favorite target in 2011 should be classmate Hannah Miller. At 5-10, Miller is one of the leagueâ€™s most athletic hitters. Unioto also returns senior Jamie Hyden. Hyden is a solid hitter and good defender at the net. Hyden recorded a leagueâ€™s fourth best block total at over one per game during her junior season. After the trio of seniors, it appears junior Madison Trainer will wear the different colored jersey at libero, but as you get deeper into the rotation several questions start to form. This is a team that has a few older players who have some experience as well as a very talented group of young players. Uniotoâ€™s ability to develop a set rotation as well as blend old talent with young will be the key to them improving on last yearâ€™s finish and moving up in the standings.
Last yearâ€™s fifth place team was Zane Trace. The Lady Pioneers finished 6-8, but 2011 is appearing to be filled with optimism as head coach Lori Merriman enters her first season at Zane Trace. As mentioned before, ZT graduated its all-league setter in Jenna Wiget leaving the biggest question mark for this yearâ€™s squad. This team does have good size and good athleticism throughout its rotation. Sophomore Hayley Carle returns as one of the leagueâ€™s best players and senior Karina Partee appears healthy after an injury-filled junior season. The Lady Pioneers have several other athletes to fill spots, but like Huntington and Westfall, the ability to pass and set consistently will be a big key for this group.
Southeastern, Piketon, and Paint Valley rounded out last yearâ€™s standings with three wins, two wins, and one win respectively. Southeastern is much more athletic than a year ago. Senior Merrilee Dresbach and junior Morgan Jones return to give the Lady Panthers good size at the net. Southeastern also appears as if its rotation is going to contain a lot of young pieces. Sophomore Kylan Strausbaugh played very well in Saturdayâ€™s preview. Playing young players in the SVC in volleyball can sometimes be baptism by fire; however, I do like a lot of the young players in the Southeastern program, and I believe they will improve on last yearâ€™s win total.
Piketon, who finished seventh last year, is going to look much different this season. Its roster has taken hits from graduation as well as other circumstances, that leaves this yearâ€™s roster extremely young and with little experience. Two-thirds of this yearâ€™s roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores led by sophomore Aleah Pelphrey. Pelphrey will most likely be used in a 6-2 offense where she will have the opportunity to influence the Piketon attack as much as possible. Last year, Pelphrey was in the leagueâ €™s top-10 in kills, blocks, and assists.
Paint Valley is another team that is a year older and more athletic, but they are a team that is still very young. Something you will hear about a lot of Paint Valley programs this year is that they are a year better, but perhaps still a year away from taking the next step. Is this true? Probably a little bit, but only watching the season play out can answer that question for sure. This comment comes through Paint Valleyâ€™s athletic programs because of a solid sophomore class. Over half of Paint Valleyâ€™s roster reads 10 in the grade column, and even though they have improved, there is still going to be inconsistency in areas and a tough hill to climb playing in a tough volleyball league.
The league opens conference play Tuesday night. Adena will travel to Westfall on opening night while Paint Valley travels to Huntington, Zane Trace goes to Piketon, and Southeastern visits Unioto. Always check SVCsportszone.com for all the scores, stats, standings, and upcoming schedule. Volleyball Page