|By Shayne Combs, email@example.com
I am always excited to attend the SVC Volleyball Preview. Outside of the sports I coach, I have always said on the
website as well as SVC Sports Talk that SVC volleyball is probably my favorite sport to follow as a fan. We all know by
now that the elite in the SVC usually also sets the standard throughout the entire Southeast District, and even teams
in the bottom half of the standings usually prove to be better than many conference champions from other leagues.
This concept should apply once again in 2017.
The preseason buzz seems to be eyeing the Unioto Lady Shermans. First-year head coach Natalie Stulley inherits a
team that returns nearly its entire rotation from last year’s 21-4 squad. Led by their outstanding setter Madi Eberst,
the purple and gold attack has a long list of threats (Ashley Taylor, Amanda McGlone, Jocie Fisher, and Hannah Hall)
at the net that could have defenses guessing in all six rotations. Good young passers in Hallie Pinkerton and Emily
Coleman should be even better after getting a year of experience, so this team looks really complete on paper and
will be tough to beat over the 14-match grind of the SVC schedule.
Chasing down Unioto will be two programs that shared similar tournament success in 2016, but certainly are in
different perspectives in terms of tradition. With Adena under the direction of head coach Laura Smith, it is a another
year, another district title mentality, and they look to reload and compete as always for a league title and a Sweet 16
spot; however, Southeastern has become the new kid on the block and still seems to have something to prove in
terms of consistently playing and beating the top programs.
As for Adena, the loss at the net in players like Devon Putnam and Carissa Poehler and the passing of Carly Carroll
will certainly be hard to replace. This process will be made easier by the fact that the Lady Warriors have one of the
area’s top players - at the most important position - in senior setter Lanie Shea. Adena will look to middle hitter Abby
Stark as well as Kelsie Bossert and Hannah Stark to lead the attack. I think many people question Adena’s net play
matching up with Unioto and even Southeastern for that matter. Even though that is probably a fair comment, I think
Adena’s defense and overall efficiency will still have them in the title chase once again in 2017.
Southeastern mirrors Unioto in terms of having a lot of star power at the net. Ella Skeens is obviously as good of
athlete as our league as seen in over a decade, and Rachel Collins, Skylar Hice, Jess Bolte, and Sierra Delong are
all capable of impacting a match. They too are really good at setter as Lauren Goebel returns to quarterback the
offense for head coach Jimmy Hutton. The giant question mark here is if Southeastern will pass the volleyball well
enough to allow its size to take over the match at the net.
Piketon perhaps is the most intriguing team to me in the league. Few teams in the area will have the one-two punch
at the net like Piketon has in Cami Chandler and Jordan Morris. The questions for this team will come in defensively
being able to keep the ball off the floor and giving setter Maci Conley a chance to get the ball to the elite hitters. The
second question comes mentally in taking another step. For example, will Piketon be able to leap frog programs like
Huntington – who historically in this league have finished ahead of Piketon. This obstacle was on display last year
when Piketon had Huntington beat three times, but in all three cases was unable to finish. This year’s two head-to-
head match-ups could go a long way in determining if Piketon can be a top-half team.
One thing I’m sure won’t hurt Piketon’s feelings is the graduation of Huntington’s Rikki Magill. Magill had 118 kills and
16 aces in those three matches last season, but now Huntington finds out if they are ready to move forward without
Magill and Alisha Long. Huntington returns a lot of experience, and now players like Riley Black, Braiden Collins, Gus
Hooks, Miranda McCloskey, and Shyanne Conley all will get the opportunity to take the next step.
Westfall, Zane Trace, and Paint Valley are all teams in a rebuilding situation. All three head coaches – including a
pair of first-year head coaches in Cyndi Davis at Zane Trace and Stacy Fuchs at Paint Valley – are early in the
process and will look to some key returners to lead the way. Zane Trace’s Hannah Unger and Evie Bennett
(Honorable Mention), Westfall’s Darby Beavers (Honorable Mention), and Paint Valley’s Lea McFadden (First Team)
as well as Savannah Smith & Kelsey Dunn (Honorable Mention) all return from last year’s all-league listings to help
bring their teams experience. When 10 of your matches will come inside the SVC against the top five teams I
mentioned, it certainly makes rebuilding difficult; however, I think these teams will once again prove to be better than
many think outside of our league. Keep this in mind…even though these three teams were a combined 6-36 in
league play last year, the trio posted a 16-10 mark in non-league action including two tournament wins (ZT & PV)
and a sectional title (ZT).
As for predictions, I think it is fair to place the bullseye on Unioto, but Adena and Southeastern will both be in the mix.
If Unioto does finish at the top that certainly puts Eberst and Taylor in the POY talks with Pinkerton in the running for
D-POY. Regardless of the league standings, it has been seen that the league has occasionally looked down the
standings for these awards. Obviously Chandler, Skeens, and Shea are all in the running as well, but in the end, my
thought is team success will drive the voting which should make watching the top-half of the league battle it out a lot
of fun throughout the fall.
Make sure to listen to the return (SEASON SEVEN) of SVC SPORTS TALK. Derrick Webb and I will talk plenty of SVC
volleyball as well as football, golf, and other topics such as repeating 8th grade and tournament success compared
to winning league titles. The season premiere will be ready for listen in the early morning hours of Tuesday, August