My opinion from the preview probably does not go to the extreme of counting out Adena just yet. Do I think Adena is as good as most Adena teams in the past two decades? No. Do I think the gap in terms of talent and athleticism between Adena and the rest of the league is smaller than in years past? Yes. Do I still think this Adena squad is good? Absolutely.
I think several teams have closed the gap. Adena does lack height, depth, and athleticism in comparison to other title contenders; however, the Lady Warriors were still the most fundamental team and ran the quickest offense I saw all night. I do think we could have more parity in the league this year, but I have always approached SVC volleyball as Adena being the favorite until someone beats them.
We all know about the streaks and the overall dynasty run that the Adena volleyball has developed in the last two decades. In case you are unaware, here are some numbers: 98 straight SVC winsâ€¦142 straight home winsâ€¦21 of the last 22 SVC titles including seven straight gold balls. Since starting this website in 2008, I have usually tried to ask myself if Adena could lose a set, and now we have reached a year where SVC volleyball does appear to be more wide-open than ever.
With my love for sports and my coaching background, I have also looked at judging a team for who they are rather than dwell on what they are not. The 2012 Lady Warriors are led by four-year starter Jenny Grigsby. Grigsby enters her senior year as one of the leagueâ€™s most efficient players, and she is looking to finish off a career that has included a lot of winning. Coach Laura Smith will also look to hitters Bridgette Scaggs and Alyssa Kennedy to provide balance in the Adena attack. I believe Adena will serve tough, play incredible defense, and come at opponents with a quick attack. My biggest concern is just the difference in talent this year. Will they have enough of an attack to offset some of the big, athletic front rows in this yearâ€™s SVC? I remember so many times in the past few years where Cadie Cory or Olivia Arledge made special plays at special times, and Adena is going to have to find other ways to continue this incredible run in 2012.
Coach Tina Magillâ€™s Huntington squad should definitely be a factor in this yearâ€™s race. As I mentioned in a response to an inbox question during the summer, Huntington is as talented as any team in half its rotation. Jackie Kellough is a POY candidate. Alayna Lytle is by far the best defensive player in the league, and Halie Ingram returns at setter after quarterbacking the Lady Huntsmen to the regional tournament a year ago. My biggest question marks with Huntington are in filling out the remainder of the rotation. Losing Zoey Zickafoose to graduation leaves a big hole in the middle. Layne Beasley has proven in multiple sports to be one of the leagueâ€™s best athletes and Dylana Gragg enters the program as a freshman as one of the leagueâ€™s top newcomers. Huntington is going to need some consistent play from the entire lineup. I do believe Beasley and Gragg are capable of becoming elite hitters and Carlie Long is a solid defensive player, but it is going to have to happen consistently. In order to win a championship, the Lady Huntsmen must find a way to not play up and down to their competition. They have to be able to play at a high level regardless the opponent.
The Lady Bearcats welcome a new coach in 2012. Unioto and Rio Grande grad Jacquie Whittle is now leading a Paint Valley team that has a lot of varsity experience. Junior Taylor Baker, who has been an all- league honorable mention selection the last two years, returns as a leader of a fairly athletic roster. If you are a fan of SVC sports, you will see several names when looking up and down this roster who have proven to be great athletes in a variety of sports, but it just hasnâ€™t translated to volleyball to this point. The Bearcats are hoping Whittle will bring a fresh start to the volleyball program as they try to close the gap on a few teams in the SVC standings.
The team who defeated PV in a pair of five-set thrillers a year ago to finish a spot above the Bearcats in the final standings is the Piketon Lady Redstreaks. Piketon is led by returning all-league selection Aleah Pelphrey. Pelphrey is joined by K.K. Jenkins, another all-league honorable mention selection from a year ago, as this junior duo hopes to provide Piketon the necessary weapons in this yearâ€™s offensive attack. Like PV, Piketon is another team that contains some solid athletes and they too are hoping 2012 will see the Redstreaks close the gap on a few teams in front of them.
Southeastern returns an all-league player Maddie Arledge as well as an honorable mention selection in Morgan Jones. The Lady Panthers found themselves knocking on the door of so many upsets a year ago, but they never were really able to get over the hump. Southeastern has some nice young talent with Emily Dresbach and Logan Goebel, and the Lady Panthers have a rotation with several tough servers as they look to finish some of last yearâ€™s near misses to become a member of the leagueâ€™s top half.
Unioto was hit extremely hard by graduation and other circumstances that now have head coach Aaron Ridenour looking at a roster with no seniors and a bunch of sophomores. The good news is those sophomores are really talented. Alexis Overly leads a rotation that contains kids that have won at all levels on the way up through the program. My biggest concern for this team is finding that go-to hitter. On a positive note, even though the roster does have a lot of youth Emily Ward, Halle White, Taylor Overly, and Karee Neff all had some sort of varsity experience last year.
Many are calling Westfall the team to beat, and I definitely agree that they deserve this type of attention. The Lady Mustangs are led by POY candidate Olivia Cobb. Cobb, who can impact a match with both her power at the net as well as her great hands as a setter, will look for help from a pair of young hitters in sophomore Amanda Curry and freshman Hannah Phillips. My biggest concern for Westfall comes in the back row. A big key to this team will be Kayla Tackett. Tackett is a great three-sport athlete who plays extremely hard. Westfall suffered a major injury early in 2011 that I believe really set them back quite a bit. If Westfall can stay healthy and pass with consistency, I see no reason why they canâ€™t contend for a league title.
The team that nobody is talking about, and to be honest I canâ€™t figure out why, is Zane Trace. I know head coach Lori Merriman (who can be heard on this weekâ€™s podcast show â€“ our first show of our second season) probably likes her Lady Pioneers flying under the radar and would prefer that I not mention that this team now has four players back mentioned on last yearâ€™s all-league squad. Hayley Carle, Delaney Spetnagel, Jillian Pontius, and Kylan Strausbaugh anchor a rotation that is extremely talented and athletic, but they too must figure out a way to become more consistent in terms of back row play.
It will not take long to figure out because Adena/Westfall, Adena/Huntington, Zane Trace/Westfall, and Unioto/Zane Trace all play within the first eight days of league play. Make sure to check out the Good Health Chiropractic Center SVC Volleyball Scoreboard throughout the season for all the scores and stats.