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VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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Lily Kindcaid (right) is one of a hand-full of seniors who should make South Forsyth a state title contender again in 2016. - photo by File photo

FORSYTH CENTRAL

Coach: Brian Welsch (first season)

Last season: 14-19

Key returners: OH Emma Gore, Sr.; S Morgan Liffers, Sr.; OH Taylor Smallwood, Jr.

Key losses: OH Julia Jasion

Outlook: The Lady Bulldogs had a bit of a dropoff after nearly making the playoffs two seasons ago, finishing 14-19 last season and just 2-4 in league play. Now the team is preparing for a fresh start under first-year head coach Brian Welsch, and they’ll also prepare to compete in a new region against the other county schools as part of Region 5-7A. Emma Gore returns as the team’s leading outside hitter after logging a solid 27.2 kill percentage as a junior. Morgan Liffers and Taylor Smallwood are expected to make big steps this season after getting their feet wet last year. “In taking over a program that was already competing so well, I can only expect that we will increase our level of competitiveness,” Welsch said.

HORIZON CHRISTIAN

Coach: Kierra Dantzler (second season)

Last season: 2-8

Key returners: OH Victoria Ayala, So.; L Isabella Berkhan, Jr.; MH Sydney Haisten, Jr.

Key losses: OH Minjie Kang

Outlook: Horizon is looking to bounce back after falling in the first round of regionals last season. The team is just a few years removed from a state championship. They’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do, but first-year head coach Kierra Armstrong is prepared to start stacking the bricks. “We have a very talented group of kids. To see so much progress in so little time makes me very hopeful that this season will produce the results we are looking for.” Newcomers Kailee Harper, Bennett Ross and Bailey Steele will add depth to the roster.

LAMBERT

Coach: Missey Hall (fifth season)

Last season: 36-12

Key returners: L Jordyn Moellering, Sr.; S Kendal Barrett, Sr.; MB Madeline Bertz, Jr.; DS Sissy Allen, Sr.; RS Katie O’Donnell, Sr.

Key losses: OH Ashley Cruise

Outlook: Lambert is coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and a second-place finish in the area tournament. This season they’ll be looking to bite at the heels of area champ and state runner-up South Forsyth. The 36 wins from last year were the most in school history. Ashley Cruise was the team’s leading offensive weapon and has since moved to Charlotte, N.C., but head coach Missey Hall thinks Amanda Sinning, Kailiin Taggart and Ally Hall can step in to collectively boost the offense. Everyone else from last season returns. “We have been looking to get better defensively since the Auburn team camp,” Hall said. “We are very excited for the season to begin.”

NORTH FORSYTH

Coach: Drew and Kelly Cecil (first season)

Last season: 19-16

Key returners: OH Maddie Bryant, Jr.; OH Bri Gilbert, Sr.; MB Maddie Palmer, Sr.; L Marin Black, Jr.; DS Kala Campbell, Jr.

Key losses: L Kailey Salazar

Outlook: Last season was one of what if for North Forsyth. The Lady Raiders got off to a great start but fell to a 3-8 region record, finishing 19-16 overall. The loss of momentum meant an early exit in the area tournament and an absence from the postseason. This year the team will be under the leadership of Kelly Cecil and her husband, Drew. The duo, from Florida, believes the team can bounce back and make the playoffs. “We feel that North has a great amount of talent and experience returning,” Drew Cecil said. “Our girls have several goals for this season but qualifying for the state playoffs is at the top of the list.” Maddie Bryant, who led the team with 201 kills and a 41.7 kill percentage, will lead the charge.

PINECREST ACADEMY

Coach: Sandy Seiferth (second season)

Last season: 19-17

Key returners: OH Adeline Seiferth, Sr.; S Gabby Wesemeyer, Sr.; OH Annie Reilly, Sr.; L Josie Sorohan, Sr.; MH Caroline Clark, Jr.; S Vanessa Fowler, Jr.; RS Annie Irlbeck, So.

Key losses: None

Outlook: Pinecrest will feel much more stable than it did a season ago. Rewind to last August, and the team was just days into adjusting to new head coach Sandy Seiferth, formerly of the middle school team, after the former head coach stepped down. Then, just weeks into the season, three major injuries hit the team hard. Still, the team had a winning record and just missed qualifying for the state playoffs. Now they’re determined to get to state and win a playoff match for the first time in school history. “The area will be tough again with Fellowship, Mt. Pisgah and St. Francis,” Seiferth said. “We are confident the team will finish with a winning record and make it to state.”

SOUTH FORSYTH

Coach: Kelly Wren (ninth season)

Last season: 41-8, Class AAAAAA state runner-up

Key returners: OH Amanda Nugent, Sr.; L Erin Yeatman, Sr.; DS Savian Jordan, Sr.; OH Lily Kincaid, Sr.; MB Shea McNamara, Sr.; MB Avery Kline, Jr.

Key losses: S Courtney Darling

Outlook: Each year since this year’s senior class has been at South Forsyth the Lady War Eagles have gotten closer and closer to their goal of a state title. In 2014 they made the quarterfinals and were region runn-up; last season they won region and faced Walton, a powerhouse, for the state championship. Nearly the entire core of last year’s dominant team returns. “I expect this season to be bittersweet,” head coach Kelly Wren said. “We will all try to soak up every last moment together, knowing this will be a different goodbye when it comes to a close.” Even with so many key seniors, Wren thinks some youth will help the team stay at the top level. “We have a mix of seasoned experience and talented younger players. This is a team with a great deal of potential.”

WEST FORSYTH

Coach: Jake Dickey, fourth season

Last season: 28-19

Key returners: OH Chloe Lance, Sr.; S Rachel Hart, Jr.; L Abbey Riggins, Jr.; DS Emma Bernardez, Sr.

Key losses: OH Taylor Aschraft, S Jordan Leitch

Outlook: West Forsyth might have felt like the odd team out in a region that included so much talent, including three other public Forsyth schools, last season. Still, its 28-win season was nothing to be shy about, including a strong 6-4 region mark. A 2-0 win over Lambert in last year’s region tournament stands out as the most recent highlight. This season they’ll need youth to step up with Taylor Aschraft heading to Appalachian State and Jordan Leitch off to Berry College. Chloe Lance, a rising senior, has a chance for a big time season after finishing with 301 kills—one short of Ashcraft—and a team-best 37.8 kill percentage last year. “We will have several new players that will make an impact as well,” head coach Jake Dickey said. “We will play a tough schedule and be tested early and often so I know we will improve a lot between now and the area tournament.”