Until another team knocks Avon of its perch as the team to beat in Hendricks County, the volleyball discussion begins and ends with the Orioles this 2012 season. But new coaches at two schools, along with a host of talented teams, could prove to shake up the county volleyball hierarchy.
With a majority of its players taking part in club volleyball in the offseason, Bethesda coach Marissa Sharbaugh says her team is “off to a great start.”
The Patriots total 15 players in all, as playing time will be split equally with eight on varsity and seven on JV.
Of those returnees, Hannah Henry, Sara Tague, Jordan Benge, Cassie Mitchell, and Mekayla Leichty all have varsity experience. Henry, Benge, and Tague — all seniors — will share captain responsibilities.
“These three especially have stood out to me in the first couple of weeks in practice with their desire for self-improvement as well as helping teammates improve,” Sharbaugh said. “They will have a great impact on the direction of our season as their teammates look to them for leadership.”
Bethesda finished 19-14-1 last season and won the Liberty Christian Tournament.
“With the girls we have this season, I fully expect to finish with a successful season, from both a win/loss perspective as well as growth as student-athletes individually and collectively.”
Sharbaugh said the mindset of all of the Patriots’ players — “wants to be here, work hard, improve and win” — will aid Bethesda in its goals.
First-year Plainfield coach Melany Rarey couldn’t care less about the Quakers’ season last year, saying what she is concerned with is the here and now.
“As far as last year’s team, I am not sure of their record, who played where, or who did what,” Rarey said. “Excuse my lack of interest in year’s past details, but this is a new season and I’m not looking behind at what was.
“The best thing about the program this year is that it’s getting a fresh start. Past players have a chance to reinvent themselves, take on new roles, and experience/learn from a different coaching staff.”
Plainfield finished last year with a 13-21 record and took third in the Mid-State Conference before bowing out of postseason action in the championship game against Martinsville.
Seniors Madeline Cutler and Haley Paul return to help Rarey achieve her goals, along with a host of up-and-coming talent. Cutler was a Mid-State all conference player a year ago.
“No doubt our seniors ... play a significant role with their experience, court presence, and athletic talent but many of our younger classmen are stepping up and filling the void of that ‘upperclassmen responsibility,’” Rarey said.
After a successful season last year, Cascade returns to the court with a familiar face, albeit a new one leading the Cadets.
Ashley James takes over after serving as an assistant for the Cadets last season and understands what is expected as Cascade volleyball has trended upward in recent years.
“As a first-time varsity head coach, I look to continue a successful program,” James said. “The transition over the summer was a delayed process due to the late resignation. However, I stepped in to coach a varsity scrimmage league this summer where I had a chance to get comfortable with the responsibilities of head coach and was pleased with the outcome.”
Cascade has won the West Central Conference four years running, went 5-0 in league play last season, and finished with a 21-13 record. The Cadets were county runner-up and won their sectional.
Senior Lauren Schmidt looks to take over as the full-time setter and Brandyce Sallee earned all-conference honors last season for her all-around play.
James said juniors Audra Smallwood, Mallorie Smith and Kellie Mink all “return to strengthen the Cadets’ lineup.”
After falling short of their ultimate goal following a devastating defeat in the state finals last season, Avon looks to get right back into the state title hunt. With 16 players on varsity this season, including nine returning letterman, the Orioles are poised for another deep tournament run.
Orioles coach Scott McQueen was careful when explaining what he anticipates from the team this season as it may be difficult to match the successes of last year.
“Expectations is a difficult word,” he said. “We expect to improve every year. Overcoming adversity and obstacles will be key for us this year. We should be very strong offensively and setting, while making marked improvements defensively from last year.”
Avon ended with a 39-1 record, went 9-0 in conference play, and finished as the Class 4A state runner-up.
Leading the Orioles are seniors Emily Graves and Kayla Springer. The pair have been a part of two semistate runs and a state title run, making them invaluable to the underclassmen when the pressure is on. Juniors Lindsay Thompson, Rachel Griffin, Shelby Conners, and Rebecca Strange, along with sophomores Beth Prince, Callé Weddle, and Brooke Peters are all letter winners with considerable varsity experience.
Prince is a returning all-conference and all-state outside hitter.
Helping prepare Avon for another deep tournament run is its tough Hoosier Crossroads Conference schedule.
“We should contend in the HCC, which year-to-year is one of, if not the toughest in the state,” McQueen said. “The depth is incredible and any away win is an accomplishment.”
After winning a sectional title in 2011, the Tri-West volleyball team is looking for more in 2012.
Coach Stacey Rogers returns eight varsity players from last season’s 22-11 squad and looks to continue those winning ways.
“Several of the players have been a part of more than one sectional championship and know the level of hard work it takes to get there,” Rogers said. “They are eager to be pushed and are always wanting to do more work. While we do have a sectional championship to work toward, these players have set their sights on winning a regional championship and have been putting in the work to accomplish their goal.”
Of the 10 players on the varsity team, seven are seniors. They include Kat Zielinski, Morgan Land, Taylor Green, Alyssa Clark, Keanna Lazaro, Kati Leak, and Alyssa Hake. Rounding out the squad are junior Nicole Harris and sophomores Lizzi Meyer and Kristen Buss.
Last year, the Bruins won 12 of their first 14 games of the season and went 4-3 in the Sagamore Conference. The tough Hendricks County Tournament and Sagamore Conference present a valuable measuring stick for Tri-West.
“County is always tough for us, but we expect to compete, get better, and learn some things playing against some programs with a great deal of success,” Rogers said. “In conference we’re always looking to finish stronger than the year before. We have a chance to finish near the top this year.”
The 2011 season was a tough one for the Danville volleyball team, but this season looks brighter.
With a 4-24 record in 2011, the Warriors are upbeat to get the ship righted.
“This season we’re bringing in a lot of new players and looking to improve our record from last year,” Danville coach Shea Pierson said.
The key in improving for the Warriors resided in the offseason work put in by the players.
“This offseason the team has worked on a lot of serve receive,” Pierson said. “Being able to sideout quicker will allow us more opportunities to score more points and bring home a win.”
Seniors returning for Danville are Courtney Leisch, MeKenzie Bear, and libero Katie Rigdon.
Pierson said she believes junior setter Lauren Catellier will lead the Warrior offense this season after a team-high 148 assists.
Chelsea Gould and Olivia Hartman will be expected to contribute right away in their first season on varsity.
Danville won its sectional opener over Northwest in 2011 and hopes to advance to the title game this season.
In Sagamore Conference action, Pierson is hoping the experience gained will result in some wins.
“This year in conference, we hope to have more success by closing out games at the end of the match,” she said. “We’ve been working on consistency in our play, which will help us be more successful in conference.”
As good as the Brownsburg volleyball team is, they have the task of playing in the Hoosier Crossroads Conference.
Of the 10 HCC teams in 2011, only two suffered double-digit losses and the other eight teams had at least 20 wins. It’s a conference that Bulldogs coach Bob Yeager believes is one of the best in the state.
“I feel the HCC is the strongest conference in the area and will be very strong again this year,” he said. “We expect every Thursday night to be a battle and hopefully we’ll meet that challenge.”
Helping to do that for Brownsburg are seniors Stacy Silver, Lauren Gregory, and Natalie Kroll. Silver tore her ACL during the summer and will be missed the majority of the 2012 season.
Gregory is “expected to be solid in all areas,” Yeager said, and Kroll “has been a good leader and will contribute from her setter position.”
Helping to round out the Bulldogs’ squad is Carlssa Damler, Nicole Weisman, Rachel Tharp, McKenzie Mason, Hannah Rothenberger, and Hannah Midkiff.
For this team, Yeager’s expectations are simple.
“My expectation for this team is to improve as the season progresses and compete hard in every match,” he said.
Brownsburg will look to the big events of the season as their measuring stick.
“Along with conference matches, county and sectionals are big dates for us,” Yeager said. “Hopefully, we’ll be playing our best and compete on those days.”