PREBLE COUNTY — The high school volleyball season tipped off last weekend and several teams have high expectations for the upcoming season.
Eagles ready to soar
EATON – Eaton returns its core group that won the Southwestern Buckeye League West Division title last year and the Eagles expect to be at the top again this year.
“Going into the season, we expect to be the favorite to win our division in the league. We are also looking to have a really good chance of knocking off the top teams on the other side as well,” Eaton coach Parker Fields said. “I think that we have the experience that is needed to be the favorite overall.”
Fields said keeping focus will be key this season.
“Our main competition is going to be us and our ability to stay focused on playing our brand of volleyball against all of our league opponents,” he said. “We want to be the toughest, most aggressive serving team in the league. We want to be lockdown passers and defenders and run a really effective and consistent offense. We also look to be the team that plays with the most energy.”
Fields said he expects to be challenged though.
“I look for Brookville to really have an improved team this season with good coaching and a really strong freshman class. Valley View will for sure be a well-coached team, as always, and that will present a challenge to us, but I think that it is one the kids are up for,” he said. “On the other side Belbrook will be big, strong, and athletic. I also look for Monroe to put together a nice ball club with a couple of sophomore studs.”
Eaton returns five starters led by three-time all-league performer Olivia Baumann and setter Bailey Jerdon.
Baumann, a senior, was the 2020 District Player of the Year, 2020 and 2021 SWBL POY, 2019 2020 2021 1st Team SWBL and All District, 2020 3rd Team All-Ohio, 3-year starter, and led league in kills in 2021.
“She is poised to reach the 1,000-kill milestone this season,” Fields said. “Since she was a freshman, Liv has been one of the most dominate outside hitters in the area. I expect for that to continue into her senior season. We go as she goes. She takes a majority of the swings on our team, and her kill percentage is always high. She serves tough and covers a lot of court defensively. All-around, she is one of the top players around. She has improved from last season, and she has proved through the preseason that if things continue on this path, she is going to be a force that will be a very difficult challenge for our opponents to stop.”
Jerdon, a senior, was 2019 HM SWBL, 2021 1st Team SWBL, 2021 2nd Team All District, 3-year starter, led league in assists in 2021, was 8th in assists in Division II in 2021, 1,000 assist setter, and with another good season could reach 2,000 assists.
“Bailey is one of the most level headed kids I have ever coached. She is a constant positive energy for our team, and that is what you want from the player that runs the offense,” Fields said. “Bailey has a knack for getting the ball to the right player at the right time, and her ability to read net defenders has improved as she has gained more experience. Her ability to run a diverse offense has really helped our team win a lot of ball games with her in control.”
Other returning starters are Elise Hewitt, Lily Shepherd and Ellie Wilson
“Elise is a little firecracker in the back row, and when she is jiving back there, it’s really hard to stop us,” Fields said. “Our first point of contact typically starts with her, and she has done a really nice job, throughout her career, of taking a majority of the attacked/served balls on our side of the net. Shes one of the best Liberos around at being able to step in and take a second ball when our setter has to play defense. She also has the ability to spot serve a team off the court.”
“Lily is a super athletic and dynamic outside hitter. She has a strong vertical. If we can get her confidence at the net to continuously improve, I believe that she will be a force,” Fields said. “When she is aggressive in her shot making, good things happen for our team. She is also one of the most consistent, aggressive servers on our team and in our league. If we can get that confidence from the service line to transfer to the net, she will put up big numbers this year.”
“Ellie is one of the most dominate middles in the area. I believe that she is the best middle in our league, on either side,” Fields said. “With teams honing in on her, and putting two or three blockers on her, we expect for her to diversify her offense this season. She has really been working hard on improving her blocking, especially with her feet, and it has shown in the preseason, as her closing improved each night we scrimmaged. I look for her to carry that improvement into the season and become one of the top blockers in our league and area.”
Also back are senior Paige Pitsinger, Cate Clabaugh and Sam Witte.
Fields said newcomer Katie Bryant, Anna Barney, Delany Deaton, Daisy Suggs, Julianne Deaton and Kenzie Wilson will provide the team with depth.
Eaton opened the season with a 25-6, 25-11, 25-9 sweep of Springfield Northwestern on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Baumann led the team with 11 kills and seven digs. Jerdon added 28 assists and four digs. Willson and Shepherd contributed eight and seven kills respectively. Shepherd also added eight aces.
Blazers seeking to achieve goals
NEW PARIS – National Trail is looking to improve on its four win season from a year ago and second year coach Jackie Barnes believes the can accomplish that goal.
Seniors Haley Davidson and Riley Anderson are returning as varsity starting players.
“Haley will look to play all the way around with Riley being an asset able to play any place across the net,” Barnes said.
Juniors Addie Sparks and Kynzie Everman are also returning for the varsity team as starters from 2021.
“Addie will again play all the way around. Kynzie will be used primarily in the 5-1 setter role. Both players led the team in their respective positions last year,” Barnes said.
Joining the varsity squad this year are seniors Katelynn Neace (Libero), Regan Weisgerber (MH/RH), and Natalie Osswald (MH/RH) as well as junior Thelma Weldy (DS).
Barnes said freshman Haydn Davies and sophomore Miranda Ott will also see some time on the court with the varsity team throughout the year.
“We are looking to improve tremendously from last year and be in the top half of our league in its second year (WOAC),” Barnes said. “The team is very excited about the upcoming season. Many are in new roles/positions and look forward to contributing positively towards a winning season. These girls have set goals for the team and individually and look forward to crushing them in the upcoming season.”
The Blazers opened the season with a sweep of New Miami (25-11, 25-15, 25-18) and Centerville (Ind.) (25-17, 25-22, 25-19) at the Blazer Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Shawnee looking to build of 2021 success
CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee is coming off one of its most successful seasons in several years and coach Josh Evans believes his team can build off that success.
The Arrows went 19-7 overall and 10-1 in the Western Ohio Athletic Conference last year, while reaching the district final.
“Last year (2021) we came up just short from winning the league falling to Tri-Village in 5 sets,” Evans said. “This year we plan on being one of the top teams in the league again with our eyes on bringing the league title back to our gym. We plan on building on what we did last year, the goal has been and still is to “put numbers on the banner”. Our 2021 season didn’t end the way we wanted, and we are planning for another long run in the postseason. The players have set their personal goals high and our team goals even higher.”
Shawnee has several returning players from that team.
Harlee Howard, OH/DS, Senior, (Captain) leads the way. Howard is a 4-year varsity starter, 2nd year as the captain of the team. In the 2021 season she was 2nd in the league for kills (Led the team) 4th in the league in digs. She was a 2021 1st team all-league and 1st team all-district.
Howard will be chasing two milestones this year, 1,000 career kills (705) and 1,000 career digs (839).
“Harlee has been a leader for this program since she stepped in the gym as a freshman, her high volleyball IQ plus her willingness to fight for every point has made her into one the best players I have had the privilege to coach,” Evans said. “She has high hopes for this season on a personal level and a team level that is going to push her to have her best season yet.”
Cora Neihoff, MB, Senior (Captain) returns.
Neihoff is a 3-year varsity starter.
In 2021, she was in the top 5 of the league for kills and top 10 in the league for aces. She was a 2021 2nd team all-league and 1st team all-district.
“Cora has grown into being one of the best players around. She quietly leads this team from the front row and has been putting in a lot of work in the off season to come back as an even better teammate and player. Cora will be one to keep an eye on this season for explosive hits and huge blocks,” Evans said.
Liv Thompson, OH/DS, Senior (Captain).
Thompson is 2-year varsity starter.
In 2021, Thompson was in the top 15 for kills in the league, 2nd in aces for the league and the top 10 in digs in the league. In 2021 Liv was named to the League honorable mentions.
“Liv is a multi-sport athlete and uses her athletic ability to rise to the task of taking on being a 6-rotation player. Liv leads this team with her upbeat attitude, dedication, and willingness to never give up on her team or a point,” Evans said.
Also returning are Korrie Woodard, Kahlen Kulms, Delany Klapper and Bella Agee.
Other Returning Key Players (position/grade)? Comments about each player are welcome.
Caylee Hatmaker, MB, Sophomore- this will be Caylee first year as a full-time varsity player. In 2021 she floated between JV and Varsity. Caylee’s work ethic and dedication has earned her a spot on the team, and she will be seeing a lot of time in the middle as we build her to become the player our coaching staff knows she can be.
Newcomers this year include Cameron Cline, OPP, Senior-
“This is Cam’s first year with the Preble Shawnee program, and she has come in with the best attitude you could expect from a newcomer. She shows up early to put in the work and keeps pushing herself to get better. She loves this game, and you can tell as soon as she walks into the gym,” Evans said.
“In my two years I have seen a lot of growth, not only in the athletes at Preble Shawnee but at the schools we play year in and year out. The game of volleyball keeps growing and the teamwork between the coaching staff deserves all the credit. We are here to win, but we are here to help these athletes grow into adults,” Evans said.
Shawnee opened the season winning the Dixie Invitation. The Arrows went 3-0 on the day defeating Legacy Christian 25-13, 25-19, East Clinton 26-24, 25-23 and Brookville 25-16, 25-11.
Mills takes over at TCN
LEWISBURG – Chandra Mills is hoping to turn around a Tri-County North volleyball program that has struggled over the past few years.
But she knows that will take some time.
The Panthers return just one player from a team that went 2-19 overall and 0-11 in the WOAC last season.
Junior Azia Singleton is the lone returning starter as several players decided not to come out for the team this year.
Mills said senior Alicia Smith, along with sophomores Taylor Cole and Makaylee Phelps return from last year’s junior varsity team.
“We have four girls playing from 8th grade last year as well as a three freshmen that are new to the game, a sophomore and a junior that have decided to play for us again,” Mills said.
“We are a young team and have high expectations to improve every game,” Mills said. “We are always striving for the win and if we happen to lose some games we will learn and grow from those as we are always looking to be better than last year.”
Panthers low on numbers
WEST ALEXANDRIA – Twin Valley South has just nine players in its volleyball program this year, but that’s not stopping coach Jandee Mowell from expecting her team to grow and learn.
The Panthers return three players who saw extensive playing time on last year’s 7-15 team.
Katelynn Wright, senior, DS/OH, will be expected to lead the young group.
“Katie was our defensive specialist last year and led the team in digs and serve receive percentage. She will be an outside hitter for us this year,” coach Mowell said. “She is our only Senior and we are very much looking forward to her leadership on the court with a very young team full of freshman and sophomores.”
Clara Meyers, sophomore, middle, is also back.
“Clara started Varsity last year as a freshman and was a big middle hitter for us. She led the team in blocks, was second in kills and received Honorable Mention in the WOAC league last year. Clara will be playing Middle and Outside for us this year. She is a very strong player all around the court and will play a vital role in the TVS volleyball program this season and years to come,” Coach Mowell said.
Also back is Jayce Mowell, sophomore, setter.
“Jayce returns to us this year after breaking a school record last year for ace serves in a match. She also led the team in ace serves, serve percentage and block assists. Jayce started as a freshman as a setter on the Varsity squad. She will be a setter again this year and we are looking forward to watching her continue to improve as both a setter and a leader,” Coach Mowell said.
New to the varsity level this year are Brylii Day, Lainey Mercer, Neveah Caldwell, Caitlyn Proctor, Ava Montgomery, and Emilee Zinn.
“With having a very young team, we have a lot of potential to improve and become a threat to other teams in our league. We have strong teams in the WOAC that will be great competition for our young and talented team,” Coach Mowell said. “We are a team that will be fun to watch. Confidence and Effort will play a vital role in our season. We are focusing on encouraging the girls to give 110 percent and to become better every day. We have a lot of young talent that will have a huge impact on our volleyball program this year and beyond. We are very much looking forward to watching the girls grow and seeing how the entire season plays out.