PREP VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Area spikers set for season

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Prep volleyball season got under way this past week and serves into full swing this week around the Buckeye State.

The chase for the OVAC titles and sectional seeding will be interesting to watch unfold this season with several quality teams vying for the top four spots in each OVAC class.

The conference tournament will be held Oct. 12 at Steubenville High School. The OVAC will play all five classes there, unlike last season when Brooke hosted two divisions. The cut-off for the tournament is set for Oct. 5.

The OHSAA sectional tournament will begin on Oct. 14 and the seeding will take place on Oct. 6.

Here’s a capsule look at the teams that returned their information sheets:

BARNESVILLE – The Lady Shamrocks are coming off a 19-6, sectional championship season in 2012.

As head coach Nikki McEndree prepares for her ninth season at the helm, she’s trying to replace seven key seniors from that squad.

“We’re still trying to find our identity,” McEndree said. “We are inexperienced, but we’ve made a lot of progress over the summer and will continue to get better. As always, I expect them to work as a team, not as individuals and hustle all the time.”

One two-year letter winner will be looked upon for leadership in junior Paige Huntsman.

Junior Miranda Plumly is back as a left hitter along with junior middle hitter Shasta Roberts, junior setter Layna Broomhall, senior libero Paige Wright and junior Dorothy Leek, who will play on the back row.

Sophomores Sydney Ralston and Cassidy Rush round out the varsity squad.

Battling for action are juniors Michaela George and Sharon Blackstone; sophomores Avery Hanlon, Katie Jackson, Jayna Hannahs, Alexis Starr, Bailey Ramsey; freshmen Brianna Bohandy and Ashley Brown.

Other frosh in the program include: Brittany Butler, Carly West, Mikayla Willis, Samantha Arigoni, Alexis Thomas, Lauren Hanes, Makayla Patrick, Alexis Marovich and Hannah Swallie.

“When we come together, and not care who gets the credit, I am confident that this team will have a successful season,” McEndree said. “I am fortunate to have a nice group of hard-working, young ladies on the team.”

McEndree is assisted by Melissa Dodd, Karen Clouse, Kevin Miller and Kari Hunkler.

BEALLSVILLE – For the Lady Blue Devils, gaining confidence will be the key to their season, according to second-year head coach Jeff Fluharty.

“I think as the season goes on and we gain confidence, we will be very competitive and meet the goals we have set for ourselves,” Fluharty said.

The Lady Blue Devils finished 13-11 in 2012 and lost five seniors from that team to graduation. Gone are Madison Stephen, Ali Campbell, Anna Jones, Rachael Emrick and Katey Kinney.

Back is three-year regular Morgan Marley, who is moving to setter. Senior veteran Laikyn Tubaugh is back as an outside hitter. Seniors Shania Phillips, Maegan Atkinson and Ella Campbell also return and will take on starting roles.

Juniors Rikki Decker, Morgan Myers and Dicey Stewart are also key returnees after earning a letter last season.

Emilee Barnett, Abby Swallow and Leaha Johnson comprise the sophomore class.

Newcomers to the varsity program include frosh Staci Crum, Lexi Thornberry, Taylor Shriver and Crystal Johnson.

“Our athleticism and experience will be key to get us where we want to be,” Fluharty said.

BELLAIRE – The Lady Big Reds appear primed for a big season as eight multi-year letter winners return from a 9-12 squad for Coach Kaye Sechrest, who is entering her ninth season.

The lone graduation loss for the Lady Reds was Taylar Cantar.

A strong senior class is slated to lead the way for the Bellaire. Included are three-year letter winners Mackenzie Conroy, Cari Crozier, Tori Duffy and Hunter Eden. Two-year winners Lyndsey McMahon and Aubrey Ryan are also expected to take on big roles.

Senior Megan Maffe rounds out the 12th grade group.

Junior Melissa Cordy is seeking her third letter as his Elisha Gillespie. Letter winners Talia Duffy and Shiann Kolakowski should also contribute along with junior Savana Sims.

Sophomores Mary Garloch and Morgan Runyan also lettered last season. Joining them are classmates Sydney Badia and Tara Duffy.

The freshmen class consists of: Abby Cusick, Marissa Dippel, Riley Hoepfner, Kelsey Jarvis, Megan McCarthy, Lexi McConnaughy, Kelsie Moser, Lexie Parker and Sloane Porter.

“We have a fantastic group of girls who’ve been practicing hard this summer,” Sechrest said. “If we can keep our heads together, play as a team and communicate on the court, we’ll be competitive this season. Our older players have been working with our younger players and I think really think our junior class is going to develop into fine players.”

Sechrest is being assisted by Wendy Patrone-Mnetzer, Melissa Lahna and C.J. Garloch.

BRIDGEPORT – The Lady Bulldogs will be under the guidance of first-year head coach Ron Kelly. While Kelly is in his first year at Bridgeport, he’s by no means a stranger to the sport.

Kelly owns a 316-253 record in his career that spans 31 years.

The Lady Bulldogs must replace a three-member senior class that included Emily Nowakowski, Kaitlyn Benda and Jalynn Conaway. Nowakowski was the OVAC Class 2A Player of the Year and is now playing at Waynesburg.

The Lady Bulldogs’ cupboard, however, isn’t bare, but it’s thin as just 10 players – all of whom are in the upper two grades – return.

Leading the way are a pair of three-year mainstays in Cheyenne Flowers and Hannah Lewis.

Seniors Alysa Crook and Maclaine Murad along with junior Briana Massey are all back as two-year letter winners. Senior Ali Baker has also earned a letter.

Senior Amber Millard and juniors Shannon Frey, Mikaya Green and Vanessa Stanton comprised the balance of the roster.

“Our team will be built around our seniors and one junior letter winner,” Kelly said. “The team possesses good potential and with senior leadership and hardwork, they will have the opportunity to have a good year.”

Kelly is being assisted by Kylee Carpenter, Greg Harkness and Meredith Totterdale.

BUCKEYE LOCAL – The Lady Panthers have had a change at the top as Janelle Windsheimer has taken over the program from Shelby Luther.

Windsheimer inherits a club that finished 2012 with a 10-11 record and lost four players to graduation.

A solid senior class will lead the way for the Lady Panthers, including a quartet of expected starters in Preslie Renforth, Nicolette Devore, Morgan Fedorko and Morgan Staten.

Also ticketed to be in the opening day lineup are junior Lexus Fedorko, Kierstyn Czuchran and sophomore libero Becky Zeroski.

The remainder of the varsity roster includes: senior Ashley Taylor and junior Amanda Barbarossa.

Battling for action are: Kylie Lovinski, Kala Petrella, Bailee Morrocco, sophomores Jamaya Christian, Adrienne Yanssens, Angel Emery; frosh Jennifer Kruise, Kelsey Hilderbrand, Sydney Myers, Taylor Strauss, Abby Decesare, Allexis Spencer, Destiny Christian and Kayla Ankrom.

Windsheimer is being assisted by Presley Cupp and Mia Zamana.

BUCKEYE TRAIL – The Lady Warriors have one of the area’s most storied volleyball traditions under one of the most successful head coaches.

Jeff Beros is entering his 23rd season at the helm in Old Washington with an impressive 441-107 career record. That includes a mediocre 12-11 mark in 2012.

Gone from that squad is second-team all-Ohioan Lynsey Beros.

“We will have another young team,” Beros said. “Our goal is to be competitive in every match we play. If we can do that, we can finish in the top half of the PVC and possibly qualify for the OVAC Tournament.”

The Lady Warriors have just three players in the upper two grades, including senior Kelsey Beros. She’s joined by juniors Josie Hensley and Miranda Stillion.

The sophomore class consists of Meghann Winters, Ashley Nichols, Abby Stratton, Alli Snodgrass and Alex Strasser. Freshmen newcomers include Karlye Hensley, Lexe Starr, Alexis Wheeler and Jennifer Burga.

EAST RICHLAND CHRISTIAN – The Lady Lions underwent their first coaching change in the history of the program on the heels of the program’s first winning season in 2012.

Eric Mercer has taken over the reins as East Richland Christian comes off a 9-8 season. Gone, however, are Katie Albert and Hannah Surface. Both of whom are currently playing sports at Alderson-Broaddus.

The Lady Lions feature nary a senior this season as juniors Alyssa Crowley, Brooke Hamm, Rebekah Mitchell and Susanna Yourko are set to lead the way. Sophomore Alyssa Blodgett along with freshmen Sadie Lendon and Halli Peltier are also in the mix.

“We have an experienced team this year with good representation from upperclassmen who have been in the program for a while,” Mercer said. “We have good height and some girls who can really hit the ball. I have thrown a lot of allignment changes at them and they are responding very, very well. The girls get along and have a good dynamic and attitude in practice that I know will carry over to our regular season matches.”

HARRISON CENTRAL – The Lady Huskies have a new head coach at the helm as they begin another season.

Sarah Wilden has taken over the helm and returns all but two players to the mix. Gone are Janese Eckley and Marissa Bennett.

Battling for time with the varsity squad are: Samantha Middaugh, Katie Stackhouse, Kaylee Toland, Lesley Decker, Tirzah Curry, D.J. Keesy, Jesse Ledger, Michala Saffell, Sarah Roush, Chelsea Toland, Ronna Orr and Rachael Pittman.

Ticketed primarily for jayvee duty are Rachael Morrison, Alexis Yoho, Sam Raber, Bre Johnson, Skyler Allen, Megan Hood, Caitlin Emhoff, Morgan Carter, Katlynn Bender, Alex Williamson and Bailee Mitchell.

“We have seven returning lettermen, but we have many young girls that haven’t played much at the varsity level,” Wilden said. “We’ve seen some good things from our girls so far and we’re looking forward to a successful season.”

MARTINS FERRY – The Lady Purple Riders are coming off a 9-10 season, but Chuck Probst, who is entering his third season at the Ferry helm, likes his “core group.”

Gone from last year’s squad are all-OVAC player Shaina Oberdick, Dakota West, Jessie Probst and Cassie Hanson.

However, seven letter winners return.

Leading the way is sophomore Shaye DeLeonardis, who had 40 aces, 118 points, 154 assists, 48 kills, 104 digs and 14 blocks a season ago.

Junior Lauren Bennett also had a solid season in 2012, recording 173 digs, 88 points and 23 aces. Classmate Morgan Carpenter was solid with 20 aces, 83 points, 46 assists, 47 kills and 56 digs.

Junior Brooklyn Monroe also had 116 digs a season ago.

Two seniors, coming off letter-winning campaigns, are Breanna Long and Sarah Staats.

Other seniors on the squad include: Katie Donahue, Rebecca Petersen, Destinee Rosenberger and Katie Sutherland, who returns Katie Sutherland.

Sophomore Tyrah King had a solid first season. She had 119 kills.

The balance of the varsity roster include sophomores Kelsey Spielvogel, Tyesha Allen and frosh Mercedez McLeod.

Battling for varsity action are: sophomore Kiersten Meeker, Areonna Martin, Brianna Webb, frosh Kayla Strawn, Bethany Bishop, Victoria Jenkins and Taylor Saus.

“We have a younger team with three juniors, two sophomores and a freshman in our starting rotation along with three seniors,” Probst said. “Our schedule appears to be a little tougher, but the team has been focused, working extremely hard and anxious to get the season started.”

Martins Ferry will host a “Volley for the Cure Game” on Sept. 18 against Bellaire and Buckeye Trail.

Probst is being assisted by Amanda Murray, Ken Woodford and Paul Matuska.

MONROE CENTRAL – Troy Baker begins his 14th season at the helm of the Lady Seminoles in an unfamiliar position.

He has not one letterman back from a team that finished 19-5 last season.

“We’ve got to get better each and every night,” Baker said. “We have to stay healthy and we’ll learn as we go.”

Baker has three seniors out for the team, including Laycie Ball, Kelsey Dick and Kelsey LaFollette.

The juniors consist of Brittany Hooper, Katelyn Dimmerling, Shelby Wilson and Autumn Marmie.

Baker is extremely highly on his sophomore class that’s made up of Kaleigh Marley, Carly Baker, Molly Schumacher, Erin Miller, Megan Ball and Christa Russell.

The freshmen class consists of Lakin Carrothers, Taryn Burkhart, Samantha Knuchel, Allison Kuhn and Gracie Gardner.

Baker is being assisted by Casey Marshall and Jeannette Harder.

RIVER – The Lady Pilots are young, but experienced as seven letterwinners return for Coach Jim Turner’s squad this season.

“We lost some good senior leadership, but we’ve got some young players who gained experience last year, so we’re hoping to build off of that,” Turner said. “It’s been a challenging year, thus far, though. Our district went to pay to participate, our gym has been unavailable for practice due to remodeling, but the girls have been working hard to overcome these obstacles and, as a result, we’re looking forward to having a very successful season.”

Gone from the 2012 Lady Pilots’ squad are Annie Turner, Hannah Jones, Leslie Young, Brittany Harrigan and Mikayla Roberts.

Senior Mikayla Cieszeski leads the list of returnees as the only 12th grader on the team. Junior Mackenzie Wade is a two-year letterwinner at libero. Monica Curtis, Amanda Bennett and Mackenzie Marshall are also coming off seasons in which they earned a monogram.

Sophomore Jensen Caretti had a big season last year with 224 kills. She’s joined at the net by Brielle Williams. Other sophomores in the mix include: Abby Caldwell, Tiffany Connors, Elizabeth Bremenkamp, Erika Logston, Haylee Winkler and Denise Heath.

The freshmen class is comprised of Bailey Caldwell, Brissa Marshall, Brittany Harden, Madison Harman, Lexi Piatt and Kyra Stewart.

Turner is assisted by Sarah Smith.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Lady Red Devils are looking to get back to the level they’ve grown accustomed to as Christa Truchan begins her third season at the helm.

Gone from the 2012 Lady Devils’ squad are Amanda Hoffman, Allie Harrison and Ashleigh Moulder.

Leading the list of returnees is senior Brigee Mick, who is a four-year mainstay. She was team MVP last season and Truchan will lean on her as a server. Classmate Summer Gallentine is a returning defensive specialist. Gabbie Espen is a returning contributor after she earned team MIP honors last season. Senior Kathryn Whinnery is also back and is battling back from an injury.

The junior class is led by Alexis St. Clair, who will play different roles for the Lady Devils this season.

Kipra Rhodes transferred to St. C. and will look to make an impact along with Brooke Robinson, who has been slowed in the pre-season by an injury as well. Megan Teater is quick and a talented blocker, according to Truchan. Rebekah Sadlowski is a versatile hitter and can play a bevy of positions.

Sophomore Emily Smith came on toward the end of the 2012 campaign and has worked diligently since. She’s expected to play a bigger role this fall as a middle.

ST. JOHN CENTRAL – Another season of Lady Irish volleyball got under way earlier this week as Carrie Ramsay took over controls of the Green program.

“I am excited about the start of the season and eager to help continue to make this program one which focuses on excellence both on the court and in the classroom,” Ramsay said.

The Lady Irish will be led by sophomore ace Jessica Alvey, who Ramsay says is “versatile and intense.”

Sophomore Lindsey Froelich and junior Caitlin Sliva also return. Both are coming off injuries during the off-season.

Two seniors looking to make an impact are Lindsee Perry and Abbey Schlanz. Splitting the setter role are Karlee Vostatek and Sydney Helms. Amber LaMotte will be a server for St. John.

Versatile players Gabrielle Santinoceto and Emily LeMasters also return. Junior Karlee Vostatek is also back and in the varsity mix.

Set for primarily jayvee duty are: junior Chelsea Rynkievich, sophomores Jacqueline Helms, Rachael Porter, Chloe Roberts, freshmen Kate Lovinski, Rachel Russell, Rachael Zaccirey and Brooke Zonkoski.

SHADYSIDE – The process continues.

After making its return to the volleyball ranks for the first time in many years, the Lady Tigers begin year two with higher expectations, but realize the growth process is ongoing.

Head Coach Joel Joseph is in charge of the Lady Tigers once again and he’s having to replace the graduated Karli Bonar, Hayley Holenka and Lauren Kulazenka.

“It’s pretty hard to be able to play at the same level as school that have always had volleyball when you’re only in year two of an athletic program,” Joseph said. “But, Shadyside has been quite successful in all sports, so we’re attempting to maintain that continued success on the volleyball court … it just may take a little while.”

The Lady Tigers will be led by three seniors – Bre Lappert, Savanna Wolgemuth and Kiana Duncan. The junior class is led by Kenzie Fielding, Angelina McKeever and Andrea Gooch.

A large sophomore class consists of Emily Baugn, Alyssa Newhart, Haley Johnson, Lexi Archer, Samantha Rosser, Ariston McGary, Olivia Thomas and Chelsea France.

The frosh contingent includes Kelsey Chimley, Zamora Kisner, Veda Tomich, Jonna Eneix and Matti Burgert.

“Last year was a learning experience for everyone involved,” Joseph said. “There are so many things that go into volleyball and we knew nothing about any of them and that includes myself. We’re still having growing pains, but I feel as if we’re thinking a lot less about things and just doing them better than we did last year. We’re very determined to get Shadyside High School a volleyball victory this season. We also know it’s not going to come very easily since we’re still the new kids on the block.”

Joseph is assisted by his father, Butch.

UNION LOCAL – The Lady Jets are in a bit of a transition as Karl Penz has taken over as head coach and he must replace six seniors from the 2012 team.

“We only have two returning varsity players,” Penz said. “We’ve really dipped into our sophomore and freshmen classes to round out our varsity roster, but they all seem to be working well together and have shown an amazing amount of maturity of how young they are.”

The Lady Jets are led by senior Anna Jo Nardo and junior Mikayla Patton, both of whom were contributors a season ago.

Juniors Shayna McGary, Madie Schafer and Devin Earliwine have moved up to the varsity ranks. Sophomores Cortney Otto and Baylee Wiseman as well as frosh Katie Bashline, Adrean Carlile and Kaitlyn Clark-Patterson round out the varsity squad.

“As I expect every year, I expect them to do well,” Penz said. “I also understand their limitations with being unfamiliar with each other as a unit and the limited varsity experience some possess.”

Ticketed for primarily jayvee duty this season are sophomores Katie Cole, Sydney Donley, Sidney Gatten, Brieonna McGinn, freshmen Serena Lodge, Bailey Lohr, Mickayla Cochran, Samantha Kovacs, Jennifer Paynter, Morgan Edwards, Brianna Stewart and Sierra Nowak.

Staskey can be reached at