Please note that the following is the opinion of SVCsportszone.com and in no way is based on the opinions of the coaches. The official list for All-SVC will be released later this week, but while we wait, here is a look at the way I would select the individuals in this yearâ€™s volleyball league.
Picking my all-league volleyball team is one of the most enjoyable articles to write each year. Volleyball in the SVC is fun to watch. You stay east of Cincinnati and south of Columbus, and SVC volleyball is as good as it gets in terms of quality of players and teams.
In selecting all-league, I have always tried to stay consistent in my philosophies. I do think team success plays a role in selections; however, I do not believe it should make for an automatic ranking idea. I believe team success plays a bigger role later in the selections rather than earlier when looking for the elite talents. Secondly, I think a player asked to play all-the-way- around compared to just the front or back row should be viewed as a little more valuable, but at the same time, all selections in all sports will have room for some specialty players.
In selecting Coach of the Year, I will have to go with Zane Traceâ€™s Lori Merriman. When leaving the preview earlier this fall, I thought ZT was much improved, but I still thought they were a year away. I felt they would battle Unioto for the four spot, and they have obviously proven to be much better than that winning the league. Other coaches have done great jobs this year. Multiple coaches have dealt with injuries, youth, and inconsistencies, but if I am being honest, the Coach of the Year is one of the easier decisions I had to make when figuring my SVCsportszone.com all-league volleyball squad.
In starting the team, the Player of the Year vote is probably the toughest decision that any sport has faced in recent history. I have three kids on my radar, and as I have stated on our podcast show â€“ Triple Crown Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk â€“ all of them have plenty of reasons to win the award.
I have never been a big fan of having a Co-Player of the Year, but if ever there was a year to have a share, it would be this year. I am going to give the individual honor to both Huntingtonâ€™s Jackie Kellough and Westfallâ€™s Olivia Cobb. This will put Zane Traceâ €™s Hayley Carle in the third spot.
Kellough and Cobb have both been tremendous this year. They both impact a match in so many ways and despite defenses attempting anything and everything to stop them, the senior duo always seemed capable of stuffing the stat sheet. Kellough led the league in kills with 6.4 per set while Cobb was second at 4.6. Cobb also was in the top-10 in assists while Kellough led the league in aces. As for Carle, the junior had impressive stats as well; however, many feel that her intangibles that she brought to her championship squad such as leadership, attitude, and â€œcoach-abilityâ€� combined with her incredible talent make her a part of this POY discussion.
Joining our top trio on first team is Uniotoâ€™s Alexis Overly. As a sophomore, Overly was asked to shoulder a great deal for Unioto. Overly stuffed the stat sheet with kills, assists, digs, and aces as she ranked in the top-10 of both kills and assists in the SVC. Next player is Jenny Grigsby. The Adena senior was put in a tough situation this year, and as I expected she handled it with total class from start to finish. Grigsby has never been a take-the-match-over type of player, but as the year went on I saw several nights where she was the difference. Some nights it was with her efficient hitting and serving, or a great example would be her 30 digs in a four set win against Huntington.
Continuing on my first team, I give the next spot to the leagueâ€™s best all-around setter in Huntingtonâ€™s Halie Ingram. Ingram posted incredible numbers in 2012. The junior posted a league-best average of 9.6 assists per game. I believe Ingram is one of the leagueâ €™s most underappreciated talents. Ingram is a great athlete with great hands and always seems to put the ball in the perfect spot. Rounding out my first team, my Defensive Specialist of the Year is also a shared honor with a Huntington and Westfall duo. Alayna Lytle of Huntington and Westfallâ€™s Kayla Tackett should share the honor in my opinion. Lytle is a game-changer. Her effort and her instincts in the back row are just a few of the many things that make her so good. Lytle also averages about an ace per set â€“ a number that has her in the top-five of the SVC in that category as well. As for Tackett, her energy and enthusiasm are very similar to Lytle. Perhaps Lytle is a little smoother in terms of passing, but Tackettâ€™s leadership skills are incredible. Tackett led the SVC in digs at 6.1 per set. Both of these kids were complemented by solid passers in Carlie Long and Sara Link, but they were also playing without some big blocks in front of them with Huntingtonâ€™s graduation to Zoey Zickafoose and the season-ending injury of Westfallâ€™s Amanda Curry.
Due to my tie at the end of the first team (meaning eight on first team), I will have only six spots on my second team. I start my second team with a pair of teammates from the championship ZT squad â€“ Delaney Spetnagel and Kylan Strausbaugh. You may be asking how the outright champions get only one on first team, and that would be a legitimate question. I feel I represent the champions quite well giving them three of the top-10 players, and you will see as I move through the article, the respect I have for their depth of talent. Both Spetnagel and Strausbaugh are elite hitters and passers in this yearâ€™s league and both are huge pieces to the Zane Trace championship puzzle in 2012.
For the third spot on my second team, I return to the setter position with Adenaâ€™s Kirsten Dawson. Dawsonâ€™s 8.6 assists per set was second only to Ingram in the SVC. When you combine the importance of the setter position with Dawson being a 5-1 setter posting such a high number of assists, I could not see moving her down the list any deeper.
At this point, I started having trouble ranking the players within their own teams. With Unioto, I had to compare several players such as Karee Neff, Taylor Overly, Emily Ward and even some half-rotation players such as Makenna Steinbrook and Halle White. For Southeastern, I couldnâ€™t guarantee I was going to have room for more than one, so Morgan Jones, Maddie Arledge, and Emily Dresbach were hard to rank.
After studying the Unioto stat sheet and thinking back to the four times I have seen Unioto this season, I will give the next spot to Karee Neff. Neff has one of the leagueâ€™s toughest serves at nearly an ace per set and has continued to do a nice job in the back row for Unioto. She has also taken on an increased roll in the front row including hitting from various spots depending on the rotation. The next spot goes to Southeastern, and I will give the nod to Morgan Jones. I know I contradict myself here a little in terms of all-around play, but I do feel Jones in the middle is a major factor in SVC matches. Jones proved to be one of the leagueâ €™s best players at the net in terms of kills and blocks. Alyssa Kennedy is next on the list. The Adena middle- hitter spent most of the year in the top five of the league in kills at 3.2 per game. I know many may argue that perhaps she is too low. As I stated in my philosophy, perhaps I cheat players who only play the front row or a defensive spot, but I have always felt the all-around hitter/passer/server or the 5-1 setter deserves to be a little bit higher.
On my third team, I start with the SVC champions. It is nearly impossible for me to decide between ZTâ€™s Jillian Pontius and Karah Tillis. Both shared the 6-2 setting responsibilities, and their similar setting stats in 2012 served as a great example of the great balance of Zane Trace. It seems almost unfair to put one on and leave the other off, but if I had to pick one, I would probably give the slight nod to Pontius based on a few extra rotation spots she was asked to play in certain matches late in the year. To be honest, my philosophy of taking players who play all the way around had me thinking Alyx Chaffin, but I still feel the setter position is too valuable not to honor the setter(s) off a championship team. A team simply cannot be a good team if they do not have a solid setter. If you do not believe me, watch the postseason from the district finals all the way to the state championship and tell me how many bad setters you see.
Next up, I return to the libero position in Uniotoâ€™s Emily Ward. In watching Unioto or breaking down the stat sheet, Ward is asked to do a lot in terms of serve receive as well as defensively. The sophomore has taken half of the serves from Uniotoâ€™s opponents (nearly 400 more than any other teammate) and has committed an error only seven-percent of the time. Ward is in the top-10 of digs in the league at four per game, and she also is in the top-10 of aces.
The next two spots go to a pair of rookies in Huntingtonâ€™s Dylana Gragg and Westfallâ€™s Hannah Phillips. Both have been in the top-10 of kills the majority of the year. These two were the two most highly touted newcomers this year, and both have been really good for title contending teams.
This is where you get to the same debate question every year. Should every school have representation on the all- league team? I have always had the belief that it is not an automatic assumption.
Before naming the final three, let me explain my thought process at this point. In the final three spots, Piketon and Paint Valley will push for a spot, and the other schools will all make an argument for one more player. Piketonâ€™s Aleah Pelphrey is a solid player, and Paint Valley honestly has about five or six girls (Bales, Baker, Stout, Lott, and Davis all either led the Lady Cats in a statistical category or posted a balance as an all-around player) that could make a case for PVâ €™s top spot. Southeastern has two more players â€“ Emily Dresbach and Maddie Arledge â€“ mentioned earlier who deserve a look. Westfall â€“being outright second place - probably would like to have a fourth such as Sara Link. Perhaps the two-shade blue would want a spot for Karli Bower or Bridgette Scaggs. Even a balanced team like Unioto would bring up Taylor Overly, and obviously ZT has the title of champion which puts Alyx Chaffin and Karah Tillis in the discussion.
For my final three spots, I will go Pelphrey for sure. Pelphrey is without question one of the top-21 players in the league, so this pick is impossible to debate. Then, I will give the slight advantage to Link. With Westfall finishing outright second â€“ seven games ahead of Southeastern â€“ it is hard for me to pull the trigger on a second Lady Panther. I think Dresbach is a very talented all-around player, but others would probably think Arledge or even Logan Goebel would be in the discussion. When I combine how hard it is to even sort out SE and then look at Linkâ€™s key role in Westfallâ €™s season, I think WF getting a fourth to match Huntington on my list is the proper call.
In my final spot, I looked hard again at giving SE a second, PV representation (again, too many similar players to pick just one), and even Adena or Unioto a fourth, but I will stay consistent in my philosophy and select Alyx Chaffin. All year long, I felt ZTâ€™s balance was the key to its championship run, so giving them this final spot does a good job of illustrating this point. Chaffin is in the top-five of the SVC in blocks with nearly one per set, and her kills and digs are very respectable when you consider she is a number-four option on a championship team.
Looking through the article, I tried to â€œthink aloudâ €� to show my honorable mentions. These are the kids that were in the discussion, but they just didnâ€™t quite find their way onto this yearâ€™s selections.
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