Scioto Valley Conference
Fall of 2016
Beyond Adena’s normal
spot on top, possible SVC
order almost looks odd

By Shayne Combs,
The top of the volleyball standings will most likely have a familiar look throughout the 2016 season. Adena, winners
of 22 of the past 26 SVC championships, had spent three years out of the top spot in 2012, 2013, and 2014 before
returning there last year with a perfect 14-0 mark, and many have them pegged as the “team to beat” in 2016.
When you consider legendary coach Laura Smith has one of the area’s elite passers in Carly Carroll, a dynamic
setter in Lanie Shea, one of the best all-around players in Devon Putnam, experienced net play from Carissa
Poehler and Taylor Rawlings, and a very athletic Kelsie Bossert all returning, you can certainly understand why
people have them wearing the preseason bullseye.

The team with the biggest opportunity to knock the two-shade blue from the top spot will most likely be the Unioto
Lady Shermans. Coach Aaron Ridenour returns a very athletic, versatile lineup with great size and an outstanding
setter in Madi Eberst. Abbey Winegardner will be the favorite target of Eberst, but beyond her, Ashley Taylor,
Amanda McGlone, and Hannah Hall all return. I was also impressed with sophomore Jocie Fisher during Saturday
night’s preview.

Where I give Adena the nod throughout a 14-match schedule is the ability of the Lady Warriors to play with great
efficiency on a more consistent basis. Adena will serve and attack at a high level once again this season, but where
they continue to set themselves apart from the rest of the league is in their ability to defend and control the ball with
great skill throughout all six rotations. The one thing that does make the Lady Shermans scary is their ceiling in
terms of potential. When they are right, they are extremely talented. The nights they bring their “A” game there will
be only a few teams on their schedule that can play with them, but too often they have shown inconsistencies in the
past that have allowed teams to hang around and push them deep into a match.

After the top two is where the headlines start to get interesting, and it becomes hard for people to agree. In a way, I
have heard people say the standings would look odd to see some teams climb in the standings while other normal
top half programs fall to the bottom four. For many years the same names of Westfall and Huntington have
completed the top half with Zane Trace (league champs in 2012) pushing to become a part of that group in recent
years. This trio was hammered by graduation last year, and now many people are saying that it is now or never for
Southeastern, Piketon, and Paint Valley to close the gap.

There may not be a more intriguing team to analyze in this year’s league than Southeastern. After watching an elite
athlete like Ella Skeens the last two years, it is clear SE has a centerpiece to build around; however, as head coach
Jimmy Hutton enters his second season, it is the improved supporting cast that has people calling the Lady
Panthers a contender. The biggest – yet quietest – news of the offseason is the move that takes sophomore Sierra
DeLong from Adena to Southeastern. She is joined by first-year varsity net threats in freshman Skylar Hice and
sophomore Jessica Bolte. All of the new additions will take a lot of pressure off of middle hitter Rachel Collins, and it
makes SE as good as any team in terms of attacking and defending at the net.

Again, the thing that separates SE from a team like Adena is the ball control. This struggle in the passing game can
sometimes make life tough on setter Lauren Goebel, but I like Goebel’s improvement from last year. The defensive
issues probably are too much to call SE a true contender to win the league, but make no mistake about it, I think SE
is capable of turning last year’s 3-11 league mark into a winning season in 2016 league play.

I have also heard people say Piketon can make a similar move from last year’s 4-10 mark. Head coach Allison
Robbins saw Cami Chandler storm on the scene last year, and now as a junior is showing up in some POY talk in
the preseason. I think Chandler’s classmate Jordan Morris is going to enjoy the same type of breakout season this
fall. Like SE, Piketon’s biggest question mark is found in its passing ability, and like SE’s Goebel, Piketon setter
Maci Conley could find herself running everywhere making it tough for her to give Chandler and Morris the
necessary looks to take over a match.

Paint Valley completes this trio with a roster that is still really young in terms of players they look to for the most
production. Sophomore Lea McFadden is the most talented Lady Bearcat in terms of the overall game, and
classmates Savannah Smith and Kelsey Dunn continue to improve. The bad news for PV and head coach Ashley
McCloskey is even in a year where the SVC appears not quite as strong as normal it is still a really good volleyball
conference, but the good news is PV is still D-IV come tournament time and the SVC always seems to have its way
against non-league competition.

These odd discussions are certainly just that, but let’s not rule out the trio I mentioned of Westfall, Huntington, and
Zane Trace. There is a lot to be said for tradition and the ongoing expectation that is established with it. It becomes
a discussion of rebuilding versus reloading, and often times just because things start to look different on paper,
programs used to getting beat by the top half of the league must overcome that mental barrier and win three-out-of-
five sets.

As the Lady Mustangs start life without Hannah Phillips, Westfall certainly has a new look under first-year head
coach Jessica Ernst. We will all need some time to get familiar with this new group of Lady Mustangs, but Becca
Brown and Darby Beavers bring a lot of winning experience which should help the transition. Kristen Treece, Paige
Kirby, and Darby Ruoff all return as well. Remember a year ago, despite WF going just 8-6 in SVC play, the Lady
Mustangs ended the year in the regional championship just one win shy of the Final Four.

For Tina Magill’s Huntington squad, they will be led by senior Rikki Magill. The four-year starter can certainly stuff
the stat sheet, but beyond her expected good play, it will perhaps be her ability to lead a young group as many
teammates experience varsity for the first time. Senior Alisha Long returns and will lead the defense from her libero
position, but beyond Magill and Long, Huntington will fill the remaining spots with first-year varsity players.
Sophomore Riley Black will shoulder one of the biggest roles as she will set opposite of Magill in the 6-2 attack. In
watching Huntington throughout the preseason, juniors Shyanne Conley, Kearra Strausbaugh, and Gus Hooks
along with sophomores Braiden Collins and Miranda McCloskey all appear to be in the mix as well.

Zane Trace is lumped in this group due to them losing a few key players off of last year’s district runner-up squad,
but the Lady Pioneers also return some experience. Hannah Unger appears healthy after missing some time last
year, and Ashton Ward, Justine Pontius, Morgan Arledge, Taylor Pepin, and Evie Bennett all produced in ZT’s
tournament run last season. Coach Lori Koker has more than proven her team will only get better from start to
finish, and this factor could go a long way in keeping ZT closer to the top four than the bottom four.

I won’t argue that the gap between records of 10-4 and 3-11 that separated third and seventh place last year will
most likely shrink a little with more parity in those spots leading to more teams capable of winning, but with that said,
after Adena and Unioto it is still going to be an extremely difficult step for teams like SE and Piketon to move past
WF, Huntington, and ZT.

I always enjoy the SVC volleyball season, and in my preseason preparation, perhaps the most
interesting discussion has come to the website for our upcoming debut of SVC Sports Talk (season six
of our podcast show). The question is asking: Is SVC volleyball that good, or just good for southern
Ohio? If you love SVC volleyball, you will definitely want to tune in to hear this discussion. The first
show of season six will be ready for listen late Monday night, and remember anytime you have a
comment/question for us, please drop me an email at – help keep
volleyball discussion a part of the show all season long.