By Mike Myers Times herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Loogootee and Barr-Reeve appear to be the cream of the crop among local Class A schools while Washington looks to compete in the always tough Big 8 Conference as the local volleyball season gets underway in earnest this week.
Coach Alicia Hand returns several players from last season’s 14-19 Lady Hatchets squad. And Hand is impressed with how her team has taken shape in the preseason.
“We are looking forward to a great season. The athletes have pushed to hold each other accountable and not settle,” said Hand. “We have focused on playing and working as a team. We have stressed the importance of coming into the gym everyday whether it is a practice or a game ready to compete. The players have responded very well and looking forward to competing.”
Among returning varsity players is one senior, Araina Fidler (libero) and four juniors; Megan Arnold (middle hitter), Jordan Carr (setter), Amber Taylor (setter), and Lauren Terry (right side). Also returning is sophomore Emily Sullender (middle hitter).
Newcomers include a pair of seniors in Lyndsey Carrico and Miriam Ibarra and sophomore Brooke Baumert. Also seeking varsity court time will be sophomores Izzy Waggoner and Taylor Killion and freshman Mattie Webb.
First year Lady Cardinal coach Audrey Talbert faces a big rebuilding job as Washington Catholic recorded a 0-21 mark last season. But Talbert is optimistic as the season approaches.
“I am really excited for this season. As soon as I became coach in July, we started open gyms. The girls have been working hard ever since. We are determined to improve every day,” said Talbert. “All of the players have great attitudes and are willing to put the time and effort in to make the team better. I feel that we will surprise some teams this year. We have set team goals and are working really hard to meet each one of them.”
The Lady Cardinals lost six seniors from last year’s team, which lost to Loogootee in sectional play. A trio of seniors return, including all around player Mary Anne Wichman, hitter Rachel May, and Audrey Groves. Also returning is junior setter Sarah Wild.
A mix of local and international newcomers will round out the WC roster, including all around player Maria Concellon, an exchange student from Spain. Three juniors – Jasmine Patel, Layne Fowler, and Harley Wegloski – as well as sophomores Shaina Bradley and Kasey Ivy will also see playing time.
The excellence continued for the Lady Vikings, who have won nine of the 16 Class A sectional titles since class volleyball began in the fall of 1997. Barr-Reeve finished 33-3 a year ago, but Amber DeCoursey’s squad fell to the school, which has won the other seven Class A sectional championships in the class era, Loogootee, in the sectional final. And DeCoursey knows the Lady Lions will be a tough out again this year.
“I feel like Loogootee is the team to beat in Southern Indiana. Anybody who knows anything about volleyball realized how special their current seniors were going to be, even when they were in the sixth grade,” said DeCoursey. “It’s not very often you have that combination of size and skill at a 1A school, and they have been hard to handle since that class entered high school as freshman.”
Not that the Lady Vikings won’t have the firepower to give the Lady Lions a challenge. Barr-Reeve returns its entire offense, including seniors Tracy Graber (middle hitter) and Hania Sisco (outside hitter). Hitters also returning include a trio of juniors – Hannah Bullcok, Tiara Kenney, and Skylar Chestnut. Also returning is setter Jenna Knepp, who named Class 1A/2A all state as a junior, as well as senior defensive specialist Allison Hoover.
The B-R reserve team finished 22-3 and the Lady Viking eighth grade was 20-0, and DeCoursey expects players off those teams to battle for playing time, including juniors Molly Wallace and Courtney Lasher, sophomore Courtney Pruett, and freshman Megan Graber. Several other players may factor into the mix this season for Barr-Reeve, leading DeCoursey to note “There is more competition for spots on our team right now than there has been at any other time in my 14 years as coach.”
Former Lady Lion head coach Doug Denson switches places with his daughter Lacey (Denson) Wade as head coach/volunteer assistant coach from a year ago for a Loogootee team which looks ready to avenge last year’s five-game loss in the Class A state title game to Cowan and now claim the school’s first volleyball state championship.
Loogootee will have plenty of firepower with which to pursue the state title. Only one Lady Lion, outside hitter Remington Wagler, graduated from last season’s 34-5 team, and LHS returns junior libero Lauren Bowling, who missed last season due to a hand injury. And even the change in coaches won’t bring much change for Loogootee.
“Me and Lacey are like one and the same, we feed off of each other,” said Denson, whose daughter transitioned to a volunteer role with the program after being to an administrative role with the Loogootee school corporation over the summer.
Leading the charge for the Lady Lions will be six seniors, including Abby Ackerman (outside sitter/defensive specialist), Demi Richardson (setter), Kelsy Seals (outside hitter), Christina Ziegler (middle blocker), Taylor Hayes (outside hitter), and Michala Beasley (middle blocker). Juniors playing a role for Loogootee include Bowling, Waylee Wagoner (defensive specialist), Addyson Aiman (outside hitter), and Kailye Robbins (defensive specialist). Rounding out the varsity rotation will be sophomore Bailey Davis (defensive specialist) and a pair of freshman, Kylie Hall and Emily Brookshire.
Loogootee obviously has high expectations entering the season, but Denson knows his team, and particularly his seniors, will keep their eyes on the ultimate prize, a state championship.
“We have a good group of girls,” said Denson. “Since their freshman year, they’ve been focused on their dream.”
Lady Cougar coach Rebecca Hays has four returning seniors from a 23-11 team that saw its 2012 season come to an end with a first round sectional loss to Barr-Reeve. Hays likes the mix of experienced veterans and newcomers who will take to the court for her squad in 2013.
“The girls and I are really excited about the 2013 season. We have put in the time and effort it will take to have a successful season,” said Hays. “We have some veteran players who have varsity experience, as well as some new comers that bring a whole new dimension to the team. We have improved both hitting and passing in the off season, and we are ready to start the season.”
Included in those four returning seniors are Madison Reed (setter/right side), Taylor Jeffers (outside hitter), Chandra Bruner (outside hitter), and Morgan Wadsworth (middle hitter). Rounding out the key returning players will be junior Jessica Miller (middle hitter) and sophomore Lenzi Brewer (setter). Three newcomers who will provide depth at the varsity level include juniors Alexis Reed (middle/right side), Nicole Woodruff (right side/defensive specialist), and Randi Pershing (libero).