By Ryan Kaczmarski
The BAY volleyball team had a 2011 season in which it had an overall record of 19-3 and a conference record of 13-1, winning the West Shore Conference for the fourth year in a row, but it lost in the first round of the postseason.
This year, the Rockets will be without four of last year’s starters, including current Western Kentucky volleyball player Rachel Vick.
“Last season, (our team) was very heavy with seniors and returning letter winners,” Bay head coach Tony Tahan said.
This year’s returning letter winners are seniors Emily Garrity (outside hitter/libero, captain) and Claire Warblak (libero, captain); and juniors Savannah Skelly (right side hitter, captain) and Bridget Durham (middle hitter).
“Both seniors bring toughness and strong leadership to the team,” Tahan said.
Other key players to watch for are sophomores Meagan Lowery, Laura Wilson and Jamie Kantor, and freshman Annie Peters.
“The sophomores won the WSC (as freshmen) last year,” Tahan said. “Meagan Lowery is becoming a very dependable setter.
“If we stay away from injuries, we will be very strong.”
After a disappointing finish to the 2011 season, ROCKY RIVER hopes to contend for a WSC championship this year. It will be a tough task for the Pirates, as the team is extremely young, with no seniors on the squad.
The key returning players are juniors Mary Kate Krajcer (outside hitter), Kara Coffman (middle hitter) and Olivia Lloyd George (libero).
“Mary Kate Krajcer led our team in digs last season and was third on the team in kills,” Pirates head coach Kelly Bennett said. “She is a player who sets the tone for us offensively and defensively. We expect her to be much more of an offensive weapon this year as a junior.
“I have six juniors who all played junior varsity together (last year), and I think they realize what a special opportunity they have to play with each other for the next two seasons,” she added. “We have high expectations of them, and they expect a lot of each other.”
Bennett thinks the biggest games of the season will be against Magnificat (at home) and the quad-match at Holy Name, against Holy Name, Beaumont and Strongsville.
“We are very athletic and scrappy, with tough servers, consistent serve reception and solid ball control,” she said. “But with no seniors, a couple of our juniors need to step up as true leaders.”
The overall goals for the Pirates this year are to compete for a WSC championship and to pull an upset late in the district tournament.
MAGNIFICAT has an experienced core of returning letter winners, including seniors Cayley Balser, Emily Velten, Mallory Alexander (captain) and Molly McCormick (captain), and juniors Michaela Gabanic and Nicole Keshock.
“We are led by four solid seniors, with plenty of experience,” Blue Streaks head coach Mike Cannon said. “They are calm, hard-working and lead by example every day.”
The other returning players, who dressed for varsity in the playoffs last year, are juniors Claire Lambert, Megan Grace and Shannon Grega.
“Our juniors came back much improved,” Cannon said. “The experience from last season, along with their recent club play, has us very excited to see them continue raising the bar. Michaela and Nicole are sure to be impact players in 2012.
“Claire Lambert is our setter this season,” he continued. “She really has a grasp of the game and what it takes to run our offense. We are fortunate to have her in our program.”
Newcomers to varsity this year are junior Renee Martinez and sophomores Kelly Sullivan and Sheila Cooney.
“The sophomores have huge potential,” Cannon added. “It’s great to see them getting more comfortable and confident.”
LUTHERAN WEST is coming off a very successful 2011 campaign in which the Longhorns had an overall record of 15-9 (10-5 in the Patriot Athletic Conference) and made it to the district semifinals.
“We made good progress last year, with four varsity returners and seven newcomers,” Longhorns head coach Stephanie Rivera said.
The Longhorns have seven seniors and two juniors returning to varsity this year, including Brenna Villwock (middle hitter), Amanda Stephens (middle hitter), Hannah Olenick (setter), Dana Grenig (outside hitter), Laura Flanagan (libero), Megan Thomas (defensive specialist), Emily Barber (defensive specialist), Emilie Hausmann (outside hitter) and Carey Smith.
“Offensively, we are trying to keep things fast,” Rivera said. “Both middles, Brenna and Amanda, are running quick and looking good. Outsides Emilie, Dana and Carey are also running out fast offense well. Emilie hits a very heavy ball.
“Defensively, Laura is a third-time starter at libero,” she added. “Emily and Megan both have varsity experience at defensive specialist.”
According to Rivera, the matches against Lakewood, Keystone, Buckeye, Brookside, Cuyahoga Heights, Clearview and the Independence Invitational will be the toughest tests for her team.
“We have lots of experience, good serving, great passing, scrappy defense and a quick offense,” Rivera said. “We will need to stay aggressive at all times.
“Our goal is to win our conference and get past districts.”
FAIRVIEW broke even in the PAC, with a 2011 record of 8-8, and is looking to see some overall improvement.
The returning letter winners for the Lady Warriors are Katie Gathman, Rachel Anderson, Morgan Burns, Brianna Kovacevich, Marisa Rinehart and Sammie Anderson.
“Katie Gathman, our starting middle, brings a ton of quickness and power to our offense,” Warriors first-year head coach Mary Kate Kempf said. “Morgan is a utility player that can play all three positions at the net, and Rachel is an all-around player that brings strong defensive skills, along with leadership.”
Key newcomers to the team are freshman Sarah Haagensen and sophomore Michelle Dunn.
“Sarah is a brand-new utility player, who can play outside, right side or defensive positions,” Kempf said. “Michelle is a new defensive specialist to the varsity team. She has a strong serve and a strong serve-receiving skill. She is really gaining more knowledge and experience as she plays defense in the back row.”
Other newcomers to the team are Grace McConville and Miranda Whitney, both defensive specialists.
Kempf is looking forward to the conference matchups against Lutheran West and Brookside to see how the team will compete in the PAC.
“Our team strengths are our offense on the outside and middle, along with our serving and receiving,” Kempf said. “Areas we need to improve include defense and developing a strong right side attack, team discipline in regards to work ethic, communication, transitioning to positions on the court and playing every match tough.”
OLMSTED FALLS is coming off a 2011 season in which its overall record was 14-12. It finished in third place in the Southwestern Conference. The Bulldogs made it to the district semifinals in the postseason, but they are looking to improve this season, even with the loss of six seniors.
This year’s key players are senior Meghanne Daley (setter, captain), junior Abby Davison (middle), Sammy Smitley (libero, captain), freshman Katie Edgington (outside), senior Emily Mandilakis (right side, captain) and sophomore Kerri Gasper (outside).
“Gasper, Mandilakis and Davison will be our go-to players,” Bulldogs head coach Dawn Moses said. “They have been working hard in the offseason on leadership and training qualities.
“The freshmen on the team will need to grow up quickly.”
Olmsted Falls is playing a very tough, competitive schedule, including matches against Amherst, Avon Lake, Brecksville, the Best of Ohio tournament and the Elyria Quad.
WESTLAKE has a new coaching staff this year, headed by Meghan Mental.
The Demons’ key returning players are seniors Rachel Kumler (outside hitter), Jenna Lawrence (libero) and Mackenzie Hurd (setter), and junior Allyson Pesta (outside hitter).
“Rachel is a leader and our go-to hitter,” Mental said. “Jenna brings a stable passer to the lineup and is a spark plug with tons of energy, while Mackenzie will accurately deliver the ball to our big guns. Allyson has learned a great deal from last season and is ready to be a threat in the front line.”
Other returning seniors are Mackenzie Smith, Jami Wissman, Jamie Hamilton and Taylor Kolarik.
“We are a hard-working and determined team,” Mental said.
Mental sees the biggest matches on the schedule as being against Olmsted Falls, against her former coach Dawn Moses, and Avon Lake.
NORTH OLMSTED is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011, when the Eagles finished 8-15 and lost to Avon Lake in five games at the sectional semifinals.
“The team worked hard throughout the year to fight adversity and play at a high level in the end,” Eagles head coach Jason Krucek said.
The key returning letter winners are seniors Dana Borsz (outside hitter), Tara Kelley (setter) and Amelia Lingruen (middle hitter), and juniors Tia McCord (outside hitter) and Courtney Nesoff (libero).
“Setter is the biggest strength of our team,” Krucek said. “In addition, we will have firepower from the outside and middle and we will have a great defense.
“Serving and serve receiving is the place we will need to concentrate on in order to run the offense we want to run.”