|Pioneers BARELY lead a busy pack of contenders
By Shayne Combs, SVCsportszone.com
Saturday night’s SVC Volleyball Preview confirmed something that most
people thought throughout the off-season…it will be a tight race to the
winner’s circle in this year’s league title chase. Four - maybe even five teams
- enter the discussion when choosing the preseason favorite to win it all, but I
would make Zane Trace the slight favorite to repeat.
First of all, the preview is a tough night to evaluate much of anything. It is a
night when coaches attempt to mess their rotations up as much as possible,
and in many cases it can make for hard-to-watch volleyball.
Zane Trace, the host of Saturday’s exhibition, played in the night’s final
match against Piketon. The Lady Pioneers return the dynamic duo of Hayley
Carle and Kylan Strausbaugh. Both Carle and Strausbaugh can impact a
match from multiple spots, and both can truly make teammates around them
better. Jillian Pontius, Alyx Chaffin, and Maleah Calhoun return from last year’
s championship team as well. I am not sure ZT is the most talented team, but
I am convinced they are the most complete team in terms of talent,
leadership, and depth.
Piketon is improved from a year ago. Aleah Pelphrey returns for her fourth
and final season as one of the league’s top all-around talents. The Lady
Redstreaks were extremely young in several spots last year, and this year’s
squad does appear to have a little more size and athleticism. Pelphrey is
joined by five other seniors on the roster and seven other returning letter
winners including setter Payton Reuter. The one question mark is senior
Kalen Jenkins. Jenkins was unable to play Saturday night due to injury but
the extent of the injury is unknown at this time.
The other three matches all had teams trying to knock ZT off the
championship podium. The first match saw a Unioto team – all a year older –
take the floor against Southeastern. Alexis Overly leads the way for the
purple and gold. Overly, who shares the 6-2 setting duties with Makenna
Steinbrook, returns as one of the league’s top setters, hitters, and servers.
Karee Neff, one of the league’s most underrated players a year ago in my
opinion, returns with Halle White and Taylor Overly on the outside while
Hannah Nelson and Anna Karr will attack out of the middle. Anchoring it all in
the back row is libero Emily Ward.
I have had multiple people in the inbox say I am too hard on this Unioto
group, so let me try to word this as fair – while still being honest – as
possible. It is fair to say Unioto has more depth of talent than any team in the
league; however, taking on the 14-game grind of a league title chase is an
extreme mental challenge. Perhaps the experience the young Unioto squad
went through last year will bring more consistency this year. If so, a title is
possible, but in a league that has even an improved bottom half, inconsistent
play will get exposed. My eyes told me Unioto was the most talented, most
complete team I saw Saturday night, but it is hard for me to pull the trigger on
making them the pick until I see them consistently bring it every night.
As for Southeastern, the Lady Panthers enter 2013 with only one senior
(Riley Baxter) on the roster. Junior Emily Dresbach returns as an all-league
performer. Dresbach has one of the league’s toughest serves and can
impact a match as both a setter and a hitter. Logan Goebel, also a junior, will
be a third-year starter which should add some experience to the youthful
The second match of the night was very entertaining as Adena and Westfall
took the floor. Adena is once again one of the league’s most skilled teams.
Kristen Dawson returns at the setter position to quarterback the Adena
offense. Her favorite target will most likely be lone Adena senior Bridgette
Scaggs. Karli Bower, a junior, will also see an increased roll in the Adena
As for Westfall, the identity of the Lady Mustangs is definitely size at the net.
Amanda Curry returns from an injury-filled season last year. Hannah Phillips
and Hannah Wallace will combine with Curry to give Westfall the biggest
frontline in the league. Kayla Tackett, Westfall’s only senior, will shoulder a
lot of the defensive responsibility as the key to this team will be its ability to
pass and set with consistency.
The third match of the evening was Huntington and Paint Valley. Huntington
is probably the most difficult team to figure out when ranking the teams. Halie
Ingram returns as the league’s top all-around setter and Alayna Lytle returns
as the league’s top defensive player. Sophomore Dylana Gragg returns in
the middle and freshman Rikki Magill will be one of the league’s best all-
around talents. The question marks for this team come when filling out the
rotation. Layne Beasley, Kara Deal, and Allie Ray will be key contributors at
the net. Senior Brooke Happeney will see time in the back row and a long list
of underclassmen are waiting in the background pushing for spots.
Huntington will be a team who will struggle to be consistent enough over the
course of 14 matches, but the Lady Huntsmen are so talented in half the
rotation spots they will most likely play a big role in who does win the league.
Paint Valley is a team with a lot of experience. The senior-loaded roster –
seven in all - is led by Taylor Baker. Baker, a player who has struggled to
stay healthy the last couple of falls, can impact the game with a tough serve
as well as with her play at the net. Faith Davis and Erin Riley return in the
back row while Allison Borland, Laci Stanforth, and Kamren Bobb all will be
asked to up their production at the net. I do think the Lady Cats will be much
improved. This may not show up in terms of record in a loaded SVC, but with
Paint Valley dropping to D-IV, a solid season of improvement could equal a
sectional championship in the postseason – a title that would be a nice
building block for the program.
For a final thought, the word graduation came up in conversation a lot
tonight. I talked to several people about how hard it was for teams to
graduate the likes of Jackie Kellough, Oliva Cobb, Jenny Grigsby, and Alyssa
Kennedy and think they are just going to reload without feeling the loss of
these elite players. I added that perhaps the graduation we are not talking
enough about is the loss of Delaney Spetnagel at Zane Trace. I realize this
probably because of the return of Carle and Strausbaugh, but the third all-
around player made it really hard to catch ZT in a bad rotation. In the end,
the team not hit by graduation last year is Unioto. See…here I go again
trying to talk myself into picking the purple and gold, but for now I will still call
ZT the team to beat. They are the defending champs, and with the league so
tightly grouped at the top, the Lady Pioneers are the champs until someone
Agree? Disagree? Call 740-569-3254 and leave us a message. Feel free
to leave your name or simply remain anonymous. I will use some of the
best comments/questions on our debut show of our third season of the
Triple Crown Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk later this month.
|CHECK OUT THE SCHOOL PAGES (see icons across top of homepage) FOR ALL OF THE VOLLEYBALL ROSTERS