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VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules

POSTED: August 9, 2014 12:14 a.m.
 

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Katie Vazquez, second season.

Key returners: OH Emma Gore, so.; OH Julia Jasion, jr.; S Liepa Vaicekaveciute, sr.; L Amber Waddell, sr.; OH Amber Walsh, jr.

Key newcomers: OH Taylor Smallwood, fr.; MH Sarah Whittington, jr.

Outlook: Second-year coach Katie Vazquez enters year two of the Lady Bulldogs rebuilding process. That should be aided by the return of five starters, led by senior setter Liepa Vaicekaveciute and senior libero Amber Waddall. Central also returns three of its top hitters from last season in juniors Julia Jasion and Amber Walsh and sophomore Emma Gore. Vazquez is expecting big contributions from freshman outside hitter Taylor Smallwood and junior middle hitter Sarah Whittington. Unfortunately, Vazquez said, the Lady Bulldogs don’t have much height. She said they’ll have to rely on their improved ball control and serve and hope to force errors on opponents. “We have to be a very craft team given the type of athlete we have this year,” Vazquez said.

HORIZON CHRISTIAN

Coach: Kierra Dantzler, first season.

Last season: 19-0, won the GICAA Division II state championship.

Key returners: S Audrey Clanton, sr.; L Tiffany Jackson, sr.; OH Kaitlyn Loesel, sr.; OH Annsley Marks, sr.; Evelyn Parker, jr.; OH Cassie Prausa, sr.

Key newcomers: OH/S Olivia Beals, sr.; OH/MH Cassie Markle, fr.

Outlook: Dantzler comes to Horizon from Shiloh where she was an assistant volleyball coach, and she steps into a program coming off a perfect season and a GICAA state championship. Even better: The Lady Warriors return their entire starting lineup, led by junior all-state honoree Evelyn Parker and senior all-region senior setter Audrey Clanton. Kaitlyn Loesel, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, should bolster Horizon’s strong offense in her return from an injury that sidelined her all of last season. Dantzler said the Lady Warriors defense still needs to improve, particularly in the back row, but said the team has been working hard to fix that deficiency. Nothing less than another state championship is the goal.

LAMBERT

Coach: Missey Hall, third season.

Last season: 21-26

Key returners: S Kendal Barrett, so.; S Brie Lancaster, jr.; L Jordyn Moellering, so.; MH/OH Geneva Rumer, jr.; MH Kendall Spangler, so.

Key newcomers: OH Savannah Beer, so.; OH/MH Madeleine Bertz, fr.; OH Ashley Cruise, fr.; MH/OH Sarah Henry, jr.

Outlook: According to head coach Missey Hall, get ready for a work in progress in the Lady Longhorns, though it could pay off by the end of the regular season. Lambert will rely on a bevy of sophomore talent, but it’s a group that has plenty of club level experience. Jordyn Moellering moves to her natural position of libero after playing setter and outside hitter last season. Kendal Barrett gives the Lady Longhorns another solid setter after filling in for Brie Lancaster late last season when she went down with a concussion. Lancaster returns, and so does junior Geneva Rumer to anchor the middle attack and block, which Hall says should be a strength this season. Hall is excited about the addition of sophomore Savannah Beer, a transfer from Kings Ridge, and freshmen Madeleine Bertz and Ashley Cruise.

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Joy Stewart, first season.

Last season: 7-23

Key returners: MH Okwunne Ogbogu, sr.; L Carlee Praznik, sr.

Key newcomers: S Marin Black, fr.; OH Maddie Bryant, fr.; OH Brooke Ostaszewski, fr.; MH Maddie Palmer, so.

Outlook: Stewart takes over as head coach at her alma mater after two seasons as an assistant under Kathy Houston, and she’s eager to change the perspective of the Lady Raiders program after a difficult season a year ago. It’ll help having USC-Aiken commit Okwunne Ogbogu back, a senior middle hitter who Stewart expects to provide much of the offense along with Katie Cutter and Bri Gilbert. North has strong defensive specialists in senior Carlee Praznik and Kailey Salazar. That should help offset some of the Lady Raiders’ youth, particularly at setter where Stewart is training freshman Marin Black who is new to the position. Even so, Stewart lauds Black’s potential – and the entire team. “We want to surprise schools when we play them,” Stewart said.

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: Kelly Wren

Last season: 48-13, lost in the Class AAAAAA semifinals.

Key returners: DS Kailey Carr, sr.; OH Kalyn Edleman, sr.; S Hannah Larson, sr.; MH/B Karlie Mason, sr.; OS Amanda Nugent, so.; DS Amanda Rooney, sr.; DS Ashley Stephens, sr.; MH/B Taylor Svehla, sr.

Key newcomers: S Courtney Darling, jr.; OH Avery Kline, fr.; MH/B Shea McNamara, so.; S Avery Tutt, jr.; DS Erin Yeatman, so.

Outlook: No Forsyth team will enter the season with as many expectations as the Lady War Eagles after becoming the first county team to ever reach the Final Four in the state tournament. Yet, South seems equipped to handle the pressure despite losing seven senior starters from a year ago. Start with senior middle hitter Taylor Svehla, the 2013 Forsyth County Volleyball Player of the Year, who should be dominant again. Elsewhere, the Lady War Eagles have plenty of setters (Darling, Larson, Tutt), hitters (Edleman, Kline, Mason, McNamara, Nugent) and defensive specialists (Carr, Rooney, Stephens, Yeatman). Perhaps the only question is if South can recapture the chemistry it had last season. If it can, expect another deep playoff run.

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: Jake Dickey, second season.

Last season: 18-25

Key returners: S/DS Gabby Bachner, jr.; OH Jaz Berry, jr.; MH Shelby Lance, sr.; S Jordan Leitch, jr.; L Alyssa Robertson, sr.; DS Chloe Tyler, sr.

Key newcomers: OH Taylor Ashcraft, jr.; MH Caroline Frye, so.; OH Chloe Lance, so.

Outlook: Another offseason with Dickey and the Lady Wolverines say they are ready to be competitive with the top teams in Area 5-AAAAAA. If their first tri-match of the season was any indication, they’re right. West swept Sprayberry (25-6, 25-17) and Wheeler (25-11, 25-8) with contributions from all the right places. Senior middle hitter Shelby Lance had nine kills. So did junior outside hitter Taylor Ashcraft, a transfer from Florida who should make an immediate impact. Lance’s younger sister, Chloe, added eight kills. Jordan Leitch had 15 assists. While libero Alyssa Robertson and defensive specialists Gabby Bachner and Chloe Tyler led a strong serve receive. The health of junior outside hitter Jaz Berry could be the X-factor for West if she comes back from a scary ACL injury last season.

 

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