Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
With volleyball season peeking around the corner, all local teams are getting ready for what they hope will be a successful year at the net.
Here’s a look at Waverly and Paint Valley as the countdown to the first serve of the season begins to heat up.
Head coach: Nancy Terry, seventh season
2018 record: 19-5
2018 postseason finish: 3-0 loss to Gallia Academy (25-10, 25-14, 25-13) in Division II sectional final
Let’s get this out of the way … Waverly is certainly going to miss the six seniors it had on its roster last fall.
The talented group led the Tigers to 19 wins and a second place finish in the Southern Ohio Conference, and made coach Nancy Terry’s job a little easier with on-court experience and tenure.
This coming season, the number of seniors Terry can rely on to repeat those actions has been cut in half. But if you’re forced to use three names to fill the void that’s been left, setter Hailie Silcott, middle hitter Mattie Elliott and defensive specialist Audrey Barnett are all excellent choices.
And, of course, helping that trio lead the way will be returning junior Carli Knight … who led the team in kills last season.
“Our leaders are our returning captains from last year,” Terry said. “Carli and Hailie never leave the court and communicate very well with each other and the team. My two other seniors, Mattie and Audrey, will both be positive influences on and off the court.”
Silcott returns after passing out 615 assists as a junior. She now sits at 1,187 career assists. Elliott contributed last year as well, posting 82 kills and 25 service aces in 68 sets played.
Knight tallied 372 kills, 29 aces and 278 digs during a first-team all-district sophomore campaign. Those numbers, and the level of responsibility placed on her shoulders, are expected to rise.
But if you know Carli, you know she’s up for the challenge.
“She’s a top athlete in volleyball, basketball, and track,” Terry said of Knight. “She’s a natural, but is also willing to push herself to keep being the best she can be at whatever she’s doing. She has strength and determination for every position and never lets a mistake go to her head.”
Waverly’s three seniors and Knight are known names around the district. However, the same may not be said of sophomore Sarah Thompson.
As a freshman, Thompson helped the team with 53 blocks, 33 aces and a team-high 30 blocks. Now a year older, Terry says Thompson could be an under the radar name to watch for.
“Sarah started middle as a freshman last year and did pretty well,” Terry said. “But, she’s improved all the way around the court. So much so, that I feel she’ll be a major force on the team this season.”
OTHER VOLLEYBALL PREVIEWS
- Chillicothe Cavaliers, Zane Trace Pioneers
- Unioto Sherman Tanks, Piketon Redstreaks
- Southeastern Panthers, McClain Tigers
- Westfall Mustangs, Western Indians
- Washington Blue Lions, Miami Trace Panthers
The aforementioned names will be joined by a cast of rather inexperienced varsity players and plenty of new faces. But that still doesn’t mean Waverly can’t be in the mix for an SOC II title.
“Even with losing so many seniors, I can see the potential,” Terry said. “We get better each day and the veteran players have really stepped up with helping our rookies. “With the returning girls and the new additions to our roster, I believe we will be very competitive this season.”
The Tigers begin their season Monday evening at Washington.
Head coach: Angela Jackson, second season
2018 record: 9-16
2018 postseason finish: 3-0 loss to Notre Dame (25-23, 25-13, 25-19) in Division IV district final
Over the past six seasons, Paint Valley is 1-83 in Scioto Valley Conference play. The Bearcats’ last SVC win came on Sept. 19, 2013 in a three-set win over Southeastern.
Those are simply facts.
But after last year’s finish, and with a talented sophomore group suiting up this fall, you can’t help but think there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
Just one year removed from a district final run, one where they beat top-seeded Waterford in five sets, the Bearcats will now have to replace three seniors in Lea McFadden, Savannah Smith and Kelsey Dunn … a trio that combined for 464 kills, 144 aces, 109 blocks and 818 digs.
“I think no matter what, when seniors leave, every team is going to tell its players, ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill.’ It’s a mental thing,” Paint Valley coach Angela Jackson said. “While we lost three seniors, we also return four sophomores, with a mix of other girls in there, and we’ve set a high bar. We want to play the best version of ourselves.”
The sophomores that Jackson speaks of are Abbi Stanforth, Olivia Smith, Bailey Brumfield and Kayla Chapman … all of whom played significant roles for last year’s version of Jackson’s team.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with our returning sophomores and I’ve told them that somebody has to be a leader and somebody has to take charge,” Jackson said. “We also have a senior, Angel Proehl, and she’s such a role model. I swear she could outwork anybody by the way she hustles and with the drive she puts into everything she does. So she’s definitely in the mix. But right now, anybody could be a leader. We just don’t know yet.”
Stanforth came on at the end of last season, showing exactly why she possesses the skills to step up and be that leader. In 64 sets, she spread her production around with 19 kills, 12 aces, 33 assists and 237 digs.
She’ll now have a full year at the varsity level to prove her worth.
“I’m one of those coaches who isn’t afraid to shake things up,” Jackson said. “We started Abbi on JV last season and that was mainly to work on her hands. But she worked so hard and earned her spot by the end of the year. So rolling into this year, she’s somebody that’s shown great ownership. She wants to continue to earn that spot.”
Stanforth and her teammates will begin their season Monday evening, hosting Whiteoak. That’s the start of a new slate and a chance to build momentum towards a second consecutive lengthy postseason run and, yes, an attempt to snag that elusive conference win.
“For any team, it’s who shows up to practice and who shows up to play,” Jackson said. “That determines a lot. But I can say that a lot of these girls are hungry. They haven’t had an SVC win in years. Last year, they didn’t know they were as good as they were. These girls want that SVC win and they know they have to raise the bar. Hopefully that switch turns for us.”