One of the things that make being a fan of sports so fun is breaking down and analyzing things before they happen, as they happen, and after they happen. In the prediction stage of before it all happens, there are usually so many unanswered questions that can sway opinions all over the place. This was truly evident to me recently as I cleaned out the inbox.
EMAIL: SVCsportszone.com, I wanted to get your take on this year’s volleyball league. I have been around SVC volleyball for a long time and have worn a lot of hats along the way. I think this year could be fun to watch. When you consider how close second through sixth was in last year’s league and combine that with what Adena lost, I believe this could be the year that SVC volleyball gets its first shakeup in a long time. What are your thoughts on this year’s league? Is Adena the best still? I think Huntington, Westfall, and maybe Unioto and Zane Trace could close the gap. Southeastern will better too.
Preseason favorites are always based on “paper” in terms of what teams have done, what they bring back, and what a person thinks is going to happen. With this in mind, I could see where people are predicting more parity; however, the persona of Adena volleyball over the past two decades make it tough not to label them the favorite every year until someone actually proves different throughout the 14-game conference schedule.
I realize Adena lost one of the great SVC setters in recent history in Cadie Cory as well as an incredible threat at the net in Olivia Arledge. They also lost some key back row pieces. The thing with Adena is they have lost talented pieces in bunches before, and they seem to always reload rather than rebuild. I believe this year’s Adena team could be a great example of this ongoing talent. The Warriors return a lot of solid players from last year’s Final Four run and Coach Smith has a 17-2 JV squad from a year ago that should give some “varsity ready” talent as well.
Beyond Adena’s incredible tradition, I definitely see why someone could objectively analyze this year’s volleyball league and think shakeup. Huntington has elite talent at the top of its roster. Jackie Kellough is a POY candidate. Alayna Lytle is the elite back row player in the league, and Halie Ingram returns as a 5-1 setter who quarterbacked the green and white to a 10-4 SVC mark and a Sweet 16 postseason run. With Cory and Unioto’s Lauren Stout gone to graduation, Ingram is definitely the premiere all-the-way-around setter returning in the SVC in 2012
Obviously, if a team is arguably the best at half the spots on the floor, they are going to be a title contender, but I think Huntington’s question marks come as Coach Magill fills out the remainder of her rotation. Huntington is usually a team that plays really hard and plays big at the net, but the Lady Huntsmen have holes that sometimes make them vulnerable to lesser talented opponents as well as to talented, well-coached teams capable of attacking certain areas on the court. With the exception of Lytle, this is a team that struggles to pass consistently. As for this year’s depth for Huntington, I do think they have a few options to fill some spots, but only time will show the improvements of their role players. Keep in mind we are talking about some great athletes in this discussion such as Layne Beasley who could possibly take on a bigger role this fall.
Westfall is going to be good. Olivia Cobb is an incredible talent and she is going to have some great size at the net to complement her great setting and hitting ability. The biggest question mark here comes in the back row play. How well will the Lady Mustangs pass? If the answer is well, this team could become dominate at the net with Cobb and Company; however, if the answer to this question is not so well, this team could struggle to beat the elite teams.
As for Unioto, they definitely have a hole to fill at setter, but I do think this team is going to be much more athletic than in year’s past. It is hard to comment in detail on actual positions at this point for this team, because it is hard to say what the rotation will look like. I do believe this is a program with a very talented sophomore class such as Alexis Overly, Taylor Overly, and Karee Neff to name a few, that should provide Unioto with more depth of athletes at the net and across the back row. Coach Ridenour does have key roles to fill; however, just based on personnel, this could be a very talented, young volleyball team.
I think this is a year that will see Zane Trace take great strides. This year’s junior class led by Hayley Carle has always been very good at volleyball and it appears it could be adding some key pieces back to the rotation. I look for this team to be a year more experienced at setter, and if the passing holds up, I like the athletes that Coach Merriman is going to have available to her at the net. This team showed some signs at times last fall, but more consistency will be needed in 2012 if they are going to become a legitimate top-half team.
As for Southeastern, I am not sure they can be a true title contender. I do give them credit for their ability to compete with some of the best teams last year. The Panthers beat Zane Trace once and took both Huntington and Westfall to the five-set limit.