Coach: Katie Vazquez, third season
Last year: 5-20.
Key losses: MB Emily Chester, Emma Kane, OH Megan Sowada
Key returners: RH Sarah Gore, sr.; L Amber Waddell, jr.
Key newcomers: DS Emma Gore, fr.; OH Sarah Whittington, so.
Team strengths: Vazquez said the Lady Bulldogs’ have a few solid servers that should challenge the passing of opponents. Plus it helps having two returning all-county selections in Gore and Waddell, one (Gore) to provide leadership in hitting, the other (Waddell) to stabilize the defense.
Team weaknesses: Where Vazquez worries the most about Central is on offense. As a whole, the team needs to focus on being smart in placing the ball in certain spots to give hitters a chance.
Coach Vazquez: “After losing a few starters our team will begin the season with a focus of growing together in becoming a unit. We want to focus on being the best serving and receiving team we can be. We would like to keep the ball in play and be smart players challenging our opponents with the ball placement on our attack.”
Coach: Missey Hall, second season
Last year: 29-16, lost in the Class 6A first round.
Key losses: OH Caroline Lamb, MH/B Lauren Meyer, S/OH Kara Templeton.
Key returners: RH Autumn Harrington, sr.; MH/B Savannah Oaks, sr.; L Brittyn Moellering, sr.; OH Rachel Manion, sr.; L/OH Shelby Marrick, sr.
Key newcomers: S Jordan Moellering, fr.; RS Kendall Barrett, fr.; MH/RH Geneva Rumer, so.
Team strengths: The Lady Longhorns figure to be strongest up front. Oaks was named Co-Player of the Year in the county last season, while Hall is high on Rumer, who will share some time with Oaks in the middle. Hall both are skilled attacking and blocking.
Team weaknesses: If there’s one glaring question mark for Lambert, it’s at setter only because replacing Kara Templeton might be hard for any team. Hall said her skill and leadership was crucial last season. Lamb and Meyer also left a void on the outside on offense that Hall hopes Harrington, Manion and Marrick can eventually fill.
Coach Hall: “I definitely expect to see a lot of growth, especially with two freshmen and two sophomores who will see significant play time. I fully expect my seniors to bring these younger kids up and help with the chemistry going forward.”
Coach: Kathy Houston, fifth season
Last year: 12-15
Key losses: OH/S Devan Hiers,
Key returners: OH Okuwnee Ogbogu, jr.; L Carlee Praznik, jr.
Key newcomers: OH Brianna Gilbert, fr.; MH Alexis Sundin, fr.
Team strengths: Despite North’s youth and inexperience, Houston said the team should be a strong offensive team. Ogbogu, who was second team All-County last season, returns at outside hitter and has a pair of middle hitters in junior Katie Cutter and Sundin to provide support. Houston also likes the way the Lady Raiders serve, particularly Praznik, a first-team All-County selection last season, Kailey Salazar and Gilbert.
Team weaknesses: That youth and inexperience will certainly put North at a disadvantage in Region 6-AAAAAA. The Lady Raiders will feel the loss of Devan Hiers to graduation and the loss of a few players to other sports or burn-out, especially Kendall Bennett, an all-county selection last season who is concentrating on basketball. With all the new players, Houston said the team still needs to become more consistent with its passing.
Coach Houston: “We have high expectations for the season. We are a young team with a lot of potential and enthusiasm. We feel that we have a chance to compete with all the teams in our region. We’ve got to work on being more consistent with passing and everything will fall into place.”
Coach: Meg Bohn, third season
Last year: 7-14.
Key losses: None.
Key returners: S Amanda Boyd, sr.; OH Abbey Bohn, sr.; OH Keely Denkman, jr.; S Sofia Ferrari, sr.
Key newcomers: L/OH Adeline Seiferth, fr.; MH Gabby Wesemeyer, fr.
Team strengths: Let’s point out one of the Lady Paladins’ strengths by starting with a weakness. Pinecrest is routinely out-sized at the net, but Bohn feels like the team has developed the intensity and focus on defense to overcome that disadvantage. It also doesn’t hurt that Pinecrest didn’t lose a single senior from last year’s team, so team chemistry shouldn’t be an issue.
Team weaknesses: Back to that size disadvantage. The worst-case scenario for Pinecrest is falling behind a taller team that can start exploiting its size at the net and put the Lady Paladins away. Bohn said Pinecrest has to find the ability to overcome early points deficits and find a way to close out matches.
Coach Bohn: “I fully expect to make the state tournament. How far we go in the tournament depends on how bad the girls want it.”
Coach: Kelly Wren, sixth season
Last year: 34-19, lost in Class 6A quarterfinals
Key losses: RH Annie Syfert, RH Tara Moore
Key returners: OH/RH Rachel Croce, sr.; MH/B Jordan Hawk, sr.; S Kelli McCravy, sr.; RH Abbey Michelone, sr.; DS/L Ashley Propes, sr.; MH/B Taylor Svehla, jr.; L Tory Wright, sr.
Team strengths: Where to begin? The Lady War Eagles have a state-record holding setter (McCravy), incredible depth in attacking (Croce, Hawk, Michelone, etc.), the returning Co-County Player of the Year (Svehla) and not one but two good liberoes (Propes, Wright). Most of all, South has the kind of deep senior core that usually portends long state tournament runs.
Team weaknesses: Admittedly, South doesn’t have any obvious weakness, except that the Lady War Eagles’ depth will be tested at some point this season. South’s core group is deep enough to carry the War Eagles through the state tournament. Wren said the team has plenty of talent beyond its core group, but it’s talent without as much experience.
Coach Wren: “That core group has a lot of experience now. They need to stay humble. They need to understand there will be bumps in the road. Adversity and obstacles should not be road blocks. They should be part of the path.”
Coach: Jake Dickey, first season.
Last year: 17-24.
Key losses: RH Amanda Amburgy, L Haley Ashworth, L/RH Victoria Askin, MH/B Danyelle Drummond.
Key returners: OH Jazmyne Berry, so.; DS/L Makena Burns, sr.; RH Shelby Lance, jr.; S Jordan Leitch, so.
Key newcomers: S Gabby Bachner, so.; MH Savannah Butler, so.; DS Chloe Tyler, jr.
Team strengths: For Dickey, the best sign for the Lady Wolverines has been their commitment over the summer, particularly at a camp at the University of Florida where the team played 24 matches. Dickey came away from the camp impressed with the team’s competitive drive. When the season starts, Lance and Berry will be the team’s strongest hitter, but Dickey expects Butler to develop quickly this season.
Team weaknesses: With the graduation of Amburgy, Ashworth, Askin and Drummond – each an All-County selection last season – the Lady Wolverines have a lot of experience to replace. As good as summer camp was for the Lady Wolverines’ chemistry, it also underscored the team’s need to work on passing and reading the court on defense, Dickey said. He’s hoping Tyler can help the defense come together. Being so young, Dickey expects this team to make drastic improvements over the course of the season.
Coach Dickey: “I’m expecting for us to compete. We play in the toughest region for volleyball, but I’m hoping to slide into one of the playoff spots. It’s going to be tough.”