PREBLE COUNTY — County volleyball teams have already began their seasons, some looking to improve their record while others will attempt to defend their titles.
Eaton looking to build off championship season
Led by coach Parker Fields, the Eagles will look to contend for another SWBL Southwest District Championship this year with a strong group of talent returning to Eaton in 2020.
Despite the loss of Shaylen Perry, who was named 2019 SWBL Player of the Year, the Eagles return five players that received SWBL honors from last year’s 23-2 team.
“Although we lost 2019 SWBL [Player of the Year] Shaylen Perry, the unit we have in the middle should even out their attack and make up for some of those 300 kills that we lost,” Fields said. “Our [outside hitters] are stronger and smarter than they were a year ago and I expect them both to be six rotation players.”
Sophomore outside hitter Olivia Baumann was named First Team SWBL and First Team All-District as a freshman last season.
“Very strong outside, quiet leader, team relies on her to finish for us, six rotation player, should be one of the top players in the area,” Fields said.
Fields said that the team will go as senior outside hitter Libby Giffen does. Giffen was named Second Team SWBL and honorable mention All-District, and is also a returning captain for the Eagles.
“Has a great ability to hit holes, should be a top player in the league,” he said.
Fields described senior setter Carsyn Lammers, who was named Second Team SWBL and Second Team All-District last season, as a “steady-as-you-go type player” who is physically strong and brings a sense of calm to the team.
The Eagles will also have the help of senior libero/defensive specialist Claire Sorrell and sophomore setter Bailey Jerdon, both named honorable mention SWBL last season.
“One of the top serve/passers in the area,” Fields said of Sorrell. He added that Jerdon is very skilled and committed to constant improvement.
Junior middle hitter Jenna Ditmer, who Fields said is much improved and has a high volleyball IQ, will also appear for the Eagles in addition to senior Kylee Pitsinger, who Fields said is working her way back from injury.
Newcomers for the Eagles include junior rightside hitter Maddie Haynes, sophomore defensive specialist Sam Witte, sophomore middle hitter Lily Shepherd, sophomore defensive specialist/setter Elise Hewitt and sophomore DE/outside hitter Cate Clabaugh.
“The goal is to always compete for a league championship and to make a run in the tournament,” he said. “This year we have a bigger challenge because we are looking for a repeat and the bullseye is on our back. I am really excited about the level of experience that we have coming back. We should be able to open it up a little more offensively this year, just to keep our opponents guessing what we are going to do.”
The Eagles’ schedule has been impacted with the GWOC and MVL opting to play only conference opponents, but Fields said that there will still be tough teams on the schedule.
“Our non-conference schedule, before the GWOC and MVL decided to go to a league schedule only, was ultra tough. It’s unfortunate that we lost Fairmont, Tipp [City], and Greenville off of our schedule because all three teams are expected to be good. We still have CJ, St. Henry, and the Minster Invite where we expect to play Alter on the books, so all is not lost on a tough non-league to prepare us for the post season. We also have Trail and Shawnee, who should both be improved teams.”
With Eaton the team that others are looking to knock off this season, Fields said that his team will still be right in the mix for a league championship this season.
“I would say that this season we will be right in the mix, with Brookville and Bellbrook pushing to unseat us from the top,” he said. “I believe, that if we continue to progress, we should be one of the stronger serving/passing teams, not only in our league, but in the area.”
Trail aiming for banner season
With seven seniors set to suit up for the Blazers this year, coach Joy Yeazel is looking for National Trail to have a banner season.
“We’ve never had a season like this,” she said. “We also have had seasons back when I coached in the 90s where I had five seniors and that’s a team that has banners up in the school, so we’re calling this a banner season.”
The seven seniors for Trail include middle/rightside hitter Paige Birdsall, setter/rightside hitter Angle Bowers, middle/outside hitter Tristan Bowers, middle/rightside hitter Jenna Garden, setter/rightside hitter Madison Hathaway, outside hitter/defensive specialist Kayleigh Micahel and outside/rightside hitter Jaidyn Tout.
“I really believe with this senior-laden and experienced-laden team that we have a good shot at the CCC,” Yeazel said. “I think other teams may not be looking for us because we were .500 last year, but I really think we have a shot at it.”
Juniors for the Blazers include middle hitter J’da Jackson, rightside hitter/defensive specialist Jenna Petitt, rightside hitter Emma Slade, defensive specialist Mykenzie Smith and setter/rightside hitter/defensive specialist Abbi Whitesell.
“Oh my goodness, they are a tremendously hard working class and they are pushing that senior class to work hard also,” Yeazel said.
She also wanted to mention Trail’s senior manager Kacy Osswald, who Yeazel said has a spectacular attitude.
One of two newcomers to the team along with Birdsall is freshman outside/middle hitter Addison Sparks.
“She has impressed me from day one of summer workouts and camp,” Yeazel said. “She is the only freshman on varsity, and in the past few years she’s the only freshman who has made varsity.
“These young women, all of the 28 in the NT volleyball program, are such a blessing to coach,” she said.
She also said that she could not do this job without the support and help of her coaching staff, and that Jackie Barnes and Stephanie Sink are truly such a blessing to have on staff.
“My goal is not only to have a banner season, but to coach these young women into becoming not only better people, and better volleyball players, but also a better team,” she said. “We’re hoping that we get to play our seasons so we can achieve that.”
Evans leading Preble Shawnee in first season
After a 14-9 record in 2019, Josh Evans will take over as coach for Arrows’ volleyball team in 2020.
Evans has four years of coaching experience in junior olympic and club volleyball.
“Being new to the program I am sure we will see some hiccups in the transitional phase, but I plan on changing the mindset of [Preble Shawnee] volleyball and hopefully bring in some league championship and tournament wins,” he said. “The girls are in the mindset to push hard and come out with a lot of wins.”
Returning starters for the Arrows include seniors Hailee Howard, Kelsie Asher and Kendel George, junior Carlyn George and sophomore Harlee Howard, sister of Hailee.
Hailee, Asher and Kendel are all entering their fourth season on the varsity team, and Hailee is coming off a season in which she was named First-Team All-League in the SWBL Buckeye Division.
Freshman Kahlen Kulms, a 6-foot plus middle, is new to the team.
“We have some young talent in the program that will be anchored by our seniors,” Evans said. “The Howard sisters will be a strong duo on the outside with Kendel George running out defense from the libero position. Filling our gaps with strong rightside hitter Asher and young middles, we should be a strong blocking team.”
South returns six varsity players
In her third season as coach at Twin Valley South, Jandee Mowell will help lead South’s six returning varsity players to continue their winning ways after a 12-11 finish in 2019, their best since 2016.
The six returning varsity players are seniors Mackenzie Neal, Jayla Denlinger, Shelby Gearhart and Sydney Bezich as well as juniors Lauren Cole and Morgan Harrod.
Senior Sidney VanZant, juniors Skylyn Mowell and Taylor Mowell and sophomore Katie Wright will also join varsity for this season.
“This group of seniors and juniors bring years of experience from their time participating in club volleyball,” Mowell said. “With the experience and will of this team, they are looking forward to being a team to reckon with. The girls all have a strong will and work ethic, which is driving them forward with a mentality of winning. I believe we have a team that will work well together this season. They all seem to support each other and demonstrate trust in each other. So far in our scrimmages I am seeing a team that is keeping a positive attitude and lifting each other up.”
Mowell also provided a senior shoutout to those who will be suiting up for their final season with the Panthers.
Neal: “[She] is entering her fourth season on varsity,” she said. “Last year she was voted Second Team CCC and achieved Honorable Mention for District 15. Last season, Mackenzie led our team in ace serves, and continues to be a key passer/digger on defense.”
Denlinger: “[She] is in her third year of varsity play,” she said. “She is our senior setter, [and] she is able to make great connections with her teammates and reads the floor well.”
Bezich: “One of our middles. She has worked hard on improving her attack and blocking and continues to be a threat at the net,” she said.
Gearhart: “[She] is the life of our team. She keeps our team motivated and ready,” she said. “Shelby knows the game well, she is a kid you can put in any position and knows the role of each position on the court. She will be key to our defense this year.”
VanZant: “Another player who knows the game well,” she said. “She has worked hard and put in the time to improve herself, is a great team player, and will help us out with her passing this year.”
Overall, Mowell said they have an amazing group of seniors this year and that she looks forward to a successful season with them.
“Of course the girls would love to be in the top three of our conference this year,” she said. “I believe in them and know they will be working hard to be in that position at the end of the season. We had our first winning record since the 2016 season last year and will definitely be working to keep that winning record as we move forward. We have strong volleyball teams in the CCC, and it is time for us to prove we are one of those teams. The leaders on our team are working hard at setting the bar high, expecting hard work and a winning mentality from their teammates. As a coach, I am very pleased with the team mentality and work ethic, and look forward to a great season with this team.”
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles