2014 SVC Volleyball Preview
Shayne Combs, admin1@svcsportszone.com
Saturday night at Unioto the eight SVC schools got together for the annual money-maker known as the preview. As
always the rosters can sometimes be incomplete for various reasons, and the rotations are mixed and matched by
many of the coaches. This makes it hard to make certain predictions, but I feel like it does give fans a chance to see
the individual talents a year older.

As for teams, most people feel like there is a trio (Westfall, Unioto, and Adena) at the top, a team in the middle by
themselves (Huntington), and Zane Trace leading the bottom half of the league (Southeastern, Piketon, and PV). I
guess this is a pretty fair prediction, so let’s start through the teams following this particular order.

Westfall, Unioto, Adena

The defending champs return incredible size at the net. Player of the Year candidates Hannah Phillips and Amanda
Curry are joined by one of the league’s most underappreciated talents in Hannah Wallace to make Westfall one of
the league’s favorites again in 2014. Phillips, who is dealing with an early-season injury, can impact a match in so
many ways including one of the league’s most dominating serves. Curry is so powerful at the net on the offensive
side, and few players in the past couple of seasons have impacted the net defensively like Wallace has in the middle
for the Lady Mustangs.

The Mustangs also have great complementary pieces who were all key contributors a year ago and many have a lot
of winning experience with the volleyball and softball success from a year ago.

The one big loss did come with Kayla Tackett. Tackett was the definite sparkplug of last year’s team. It will be
interesting to see if this leaves a void for Westfall. I know in last year’s league it was Delaney Spetnagel at Zane
Trace who had graduated from a league champion the year before, and even though ZT had returned a lot of talent
it was that hole early in the season that took some time to fill. Often times these overlooked missing pieces are the
telltale sign in the league race.    

The Lady Shermans have a lot of experience made up of a group who has played a lot of varsity volleyball together.
In fact in Coach Ridenour’s probable seven-person rotation, all seven of those players are seniors and all have
been on varsity for multiple seasons. Through the first year-and-a-half that brought a lot of great but inconsistent
play. During the second half of last season that incredible talent joined with some maturity to produce a great
second half and postseason finish to 2013.

The Lady Shermans have a POY candidate of their own in Alexis Overly. Overly stuffs the entire stat sheet and will
be helped by all-around talents Taylor Overly and Karee Neff as well as experienced middle hitters in Hannah
Nelson and Anna Karr. Setter Makenna Steinbrook with quarterback the offense, and the defense will be anchored
by Emily Ward.

The two question marks for Unioto in my mind are the loss of Halle White and the lack of using their middle. Last
year it was the emergence of White at the net that really sparked Unioto’s last-season run. Unioto will look to a
change in its offensive scheme to fill that void. Also, with the size and experience Unioto has in the middle, I just feel
like they have to keep some defenses honest. Not saying the outsides are not the number-one options, but I feel
increased use of the middle could help balance the attack. The one thing Unioto does with a great lefty hitter (T.
Overly) and experienced setting (Steinbrook) is go opposite in their attack better than any team in the league, so a
more balanced attack could really help the offense survive some droughts especially when Alexis is in the back row.
 

I think it is fair to say the last couple of regular seasons have been some uncharted water for the Adena volleyball
program; however, during that time span, the players have stayed the course and have a great chance to return to
the top. I thought this started during the second half of last year. I felt like things started to come together, and as I
watched them into the postseason, I saw a team capable of challenging for a league title in the upcoming season.

This system starts with great play from the setter, and Coach Smith has arguable the league’s best in senior Kirsten
Dawson. Dawson is such an improved athlete from sophomore year to now, and the extremely skilled setter is now a
great leader and playmaker who can make difference-making plays. Obviously setting is made easier by great
passing, and no team in the league will pass it with the efficiency of the Lady Warriors. You can argue that there are
some other great passers in the league, but no team has the depth in defense that you see in watching the two-
shade blue with players like Jenna and Jessica Hutton and Carly Carroll. Adena’s hitting attack is also back from a
year ago as Jenna Hutton and Karli Bower were top-10 in kills and one of the league’s emerging stars in 2014 will be
Carissa Poehler.  

Huntington, ZT

I see Huntington in the preseason as a squad out on a middle island somewhat by themselves, and I simply need
more time to see if they belong in the conversation with the big three or if they have too many question marks that
separate themselves from that trio. Despite losing Jackie Kellough two seasons ago and then Halie Ingram from last
year’s team, Coach Magill still has a nice nucleus to build around in 2014. Alayna Lytle returns as the league’s top
defensive player, and Dylana Gragg and Rikki Magill return as players who are capable of impacting the game in a
variety of ways. Gragg is one of the league’s top hitters and Magill is one of the SVC’s best servers and all-around
talents. Both are going to be asked to take on more responsibilities as the early indications are these two will help
lead Huntington’s 6-2 attack.

Huntington has a lot of complementary pieces but it is just a matter of how it is all going to come together. Seniors
Kara Deal and Allie Ray return with varsity experience, and sophomore Alisha Long has seen a lot of preseason
action. The junior class has been successful at all levels of volleyball from junior high to junior varsity, but now its
time to see if they are able to produce at the varsity level. Kennedy DeBord, Jillian Snyder, Brooklyn Neighbors,
Carolane Cox, and Kayla Hopkins all will compete for varsity time.

The biggest question mark at this point is consistency in rotation and production. Only time will answer some of
these questions, but a schedule that has Adena and Unioto at home within the first eight days of league play could
force Huntington to find these answers sooner rather than later in terms of sticking their nose in the league race.

The Lady Pioneers are probably a team close to being on that island with Huntington but probably in a different way.
When you consider the loss of Hayley Carle and Kylan Strausbaugh, Zane Trace probably does not have the depth
to become a legitimate SVC contender over the 14-match grind; however, this is a team who can become very
dangerous as the year moves forward.

The key to ZT in 2014 could be the play from their experienced returners in Alyx Chaffin and Katie Unger. They will
also look for production from their returning setter Ashton Ward.

Something I would really look for from Zane Trace is its ability to hold serve against the bottom three teams, but
perhaps more intriguing is how dangerous of opponent they become for the top four teams during the second half of
the year. I say this because this is a team so well coached. Perhaps the talent gap is too big to overcome but Zane
Trace will definitely be a much improved team during the second half of the year.

Southeastern, Piketon, PV

The bottom three teams are hard to predict at this point because of the new faces at all three schools. A mixture of
graduation and incoming new players will give these three rotations a different look.

Southeastern does have some nice returners. Emily Dresbach has consistently been an all-league performer with a
great serve, nice setting touch, and an improved hitter. Logan Goebel is an all-around player with experience, and
freshman Ella Skeens is a weapon in the middle.

As for Piketon, the loss of Aleah Pelphrey will definitely be felt in a variety of areas. Payton Reuter does return from
injury to give some experience. I thought Emily Legg looked to be much improved and taking on a much bigger role
for this year’s Redstreaks, and another bright spot for Piketon Saturday night was the talent of freshman Cami
Chandler.

As for PV, the Lady Bearcats lost the majority of its rotation to graduation, so many new faces will be asked to
produce. Saturday night saw some schedule conflicts force PV into action without Mikayla Newland and Madison
Smith. The Bearcats will also need increased production from seniors Bailey Countryman and Serena Gale.

No doubt the SVC presents an incredible challenge for this trio, but it does seem to help prepare them for
tournament play. With Paint Valley remaining in D-IV, that is always something to keep in mind as you watch a young
team progress.

SVC OUTLOOK

My final thought is somewhat simple. The first key to winning this league for one of the big three is to go
10-0 against the other teams. Next, it will be important to protect your home court. Lastly, who can steal a
road game? Add all of that up and I think you could see a tri-championship at 12-2 or a co-championship
at 13-1. At this point, I still have some questions that will have to be answered in the next few weeks:
Can WF stay healthy? How will Unioto adjust to a change in scheme? Can Adena develop enough of an
attack against bigger frontlines to complement its great defensive play?

Over the years of covering the league on SVCsportszone.com, I have always enjoyed watching
volleyball. It consistently proves to be one of the league’s most successful sports, and I see this year
being no different.
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