Learn the Game . . . Trust Me!
A look at Adena's state-bound squad as well as
a look back at an incredible year in the SVC
Shayne Combs,
It has probably been about 12 years now since I started seriously watching the game of volleyball. At first, I was just
going to watch my cousins play. I was doing some writing for JJHuddle and occasionally the Gazette, and I was
basically reporting on the game with no real knowledge of the game.

Lucky for me I was watching the game with a wife who was an outstanding player in her playing days, and I was
fortunate to watch elite volleyball when learning. My cousins – Meghan and Lauren Raines – came through a very
successful Alexander program that became a mainstay in the regional tournament and eventually the state as
Lauren, the younger, played in three straight state tournaments, two consecutive finals, and won a state title.

Year by year I continued to learn more and more. I would say I probably annoyed my wife at times with all the
questions, but honestly, volleyball has now become one of my favorite sports. If you do not understand the game, you
are really missing out on some fun times.

It is like the person who thinks baseball is boring. This is because a pitcher makes a pitch…you sit there for another
half minute…the pitcher throws another pitch. Only when you learn the game do you use those 30 seconds to ask
about 10 questions. I wonder if he will throw a 2-0 curveball? Wonder if the coach will start the runner? Should the
pitcher throw over? Should the pitcher hold the ball a little longer? Wonder who is available in the bullpen if this guy
gets on base? Ok, I will stop there, but you get the point. If all you do is sit there and think the old school bump, set,
spike I can imagine volleyball is pretty boring for you.

Just the way I was lucky getting a chance to watch high-level volleyball when I first was learning the game, you too can
be this lucky because you can watch teams like the Adena Lady Warriors play on high school’s biggest stage this
weekend. Adena is textbook in the way they play the game. Adena has incredible skill at all spots in all six rotations. It
starts with an outstanding 5-1 setter in senior Kirsten Dawson. Dawson quarterbacks a well balanced attack led by
the Huttons – Jessica and Jenna. Both are somewhat undersized at the net, but both can really get off the floor and
have an incredible volleyball IQ when it comes to tooling the bigger block. Karli Bower has always been a solid player
throughout her career, but the regional tournament this past week has been a coming-out party of sorts for the senior
as Bower has played at a really elite level. Consistent improvement from Carissa Poehler, an emerging star in Devon
Putnam, and solid passing and serving from Carly Carroll and Natalee Jones and Adena is a team that rarely makes
mistakes and has a way of forcing opponents into playing out of system. Coach Smith can also get solid contribution
from senior Hannah Bakenhaster or rookie middle hitter Erica Marshall who is trying to battle through an injury that
slowed her the second half the season.

Setting the Pace

As a former pass-first point guard, I admit I watch sports with an eye for the person leading to the desired statistic. I
see nothing wrong with the “game-manager” quarterback, and I am the first to recognize the great pitcher depends on
his catcher. For every good linebacker leading in tackles there are probably multiple brutes up front keeping the O-
line from getting to the second level.

These no-headline grabbing positions do go unnoticed. It is not often you will pick up the paper or click on and read a headline that reads so and so catches a shut out or so and so set really good picks
tonight to help team to win. These positions are completely forgotten by below average fans, somewhat noticed by
the average fan, and only really appreciated by high level fans.

Earlier in the article, I mentioned Dawson and those of you who follow know that she is one of my
favorite players. Beyond her great setting ability, she represents just about everything in an athlete that I love as a
coach. She has great leadership skills. She has made herself better every year, and that work ethic becomes
contagious in a program.

As a sophomore Dawson had the near impossible task of taking over for two-time POY Cadie Cory. Its was a tough
year by Adena volleyball standards, but Dawson’s incredible off-season improvement entering her junior season
helped her team to the regional title match and now as a senior to the Final Four.

I know I have a setter biased. I appreciated Halie Ingram’s career more than most. I was amazed at Mackenna
Steinbrook’s senior season, and probably more amazed at how some people were unable to appreciate just how
great it was for the Lady Shermans. I know most headlines will be saved for the hitters, but allow yourself as a true fan
to recognize why the hitter was able to take a full, comfortable swing against a single block or perhaps no block at all.

Can You Dig It

Alayna Lytle certainly could about 2,000 plus times in the last four years. When I talk about the fans recognizing how
the setter makes life easier on the hitter, a great passer can do the same thing for the setter.

I remember the first night I realized Lytle was special. I was watching a match at Westfall where eventual Co-SVC
Player of the Years Olivia Cobb and Jackie Kellough were supposed to be the attraction, but a little scrappy freshman
in the back row stole the show. As Cobb was sending rocket after rocket, Lytle kept digging them up. I remember
watching Cobb’s reaction. I also remember overhearing the Westfall players talk about Lytle after the match (the
ultimate compliment in sports when you have your opponent singing your praise).

In volleyball it is fair to say the passer is overlooked; however, I do think this is changing in recent history. Leagues,
such as the SVC, are now honoring a Defensive Player of the Year and the game is making it easier and easier for
fans to find the team’s top passer – HINT, she is wearing the different colored uniform if you are still confused.

A Killer Career

I want to take one final chance to remind people just how good this year’s Player of the Year, Unioto’s Alexis Overly, is
in her all-around game. Throughout her career, we saw her use a tough serve, a setting ability, and of course her
ability to dominate offensively at the net, but this year in Unioto’s change of attack, Overly even proved to be one of
the league’s top passers.

Also when speaking of “Killer Careers” there needs to be a final mention of Westfall’s Amanda Curry. Curry is one of
the most dominate hitters the SVC has seen in quite some time. Her size, her improved agility, and her strength
combined together to make her an unstoppable force at the net. It is believed that Curry is going to play volleyball at
the next level, and is like all the other fans anxiously waiting to hear who the lucky college
program will be.

Take Time to Appreciate the Underappreciated

The top three teams were so good in this year’s league it truly reminded me to take the time to appreciate the
underappreciated. You have heard me say so many times in the last two to three years that Karee Neff has been
grossly underappreciated. Neff finishes at Unioto a four-time sectional champion. A year ago her Lady Shermans
were just one step shy of the Final Four, and then this year, her senior season, Unioto won the outright title and
returned to the district championship. Neff’s career included over 500 kills, 1,000 serve receives, and more than
1,000 digs.

When talking about underappreciated you could probably include Neff’s teammates like Taylor Overly, Emily Ward,
Hannah Nelson, and Anna Karr. Wait, maybe if you have all these underappreciated players playing with the league’s
best player and a setter who had an insane season that explains why together they all equaled SVC champions.

We also say goodbye to Emily Dresbach of Southeastern and Alyx Chaffin of Zane Trace. Both players were
outstanding in their roles as they helped lead young teams. Finally, to the seniors of Westfall – WOW! You talk about
winners. I know names like Gina Rosshirt, Regan Stonerock, and Amanda Curry are more of the headline names
when it comes to winning state championships and regional runner-ups; however, names like Kelly Fuchs, Hannah
Wallace, Cassidy Williams, Denise Arledge, Rachel Shaw, and Kennedy Downs have all been apart of enough
winning for all of us!

Time for the Bullseye to be Green and White

Before we put the 2014 SVC volleyball league to bed and all put on our two shades of blue to cheer on Adena, I have
to peek to next year. I know my SVC Sports Talk co-host Jeremy Ward is never a huge fan of predicting a year in
advance, but with Adena, Unioto, and Westfall getting hammered by graduation, it is time for Huntington to take that
next step. With eight returning letter winners including two all league talents in Rikki Magill and Dylana Gragg, I feel
like it is time to put this pressure on the Huntington squad and watch them grow from it. A junior class that is now
seniors in terms of volleyball have won at every level, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out because
Adena and Unioto have junior varsity squads that will make it quite easy for Coach Smith and Coach Ridenour to
reload far before they have to rebuild.


We will have plenty of time for all that to play out…for now, best of luck to Adena this weekend. The SVC is behind
you and looks forward to you representing us on high school volleyball’s biggest stage.