Volleyball fall 2020 season preview

MIAMI COUNTY — If the Troy volleyball team is to keep its division championship streak running, it’s going to need its new blood to step up.

The Trojans, who have won eight straight division titles, graduated eight seniors off of last year’s team that shared the first Miami Valley League Miami Division crown with Tippecanoe. But with five returners coming back, some other scattered players that have seen varsity time and some newcomers, Troy is hoping to win its ninth straight championship.

“We’re doing really well right now, considering we did graduate eight kids,” Troy coach Michelle Owen said. “We only have five returners on our roster. We’ve got a good positional spread and definitely some good leadership, though, and in addition they have some good varsity experience. We also have some older kids that have dressed a lot and have some experience.

Leading the way are seniors Hallie Westmeyer in the middle and Brennah Hutchinson and Jenna Coleman at defensive specialist, along with junior middle hitter Anna Boezi and junior setter Morgan Kaiser — who is back after missing her sophomore season with an injury. Seniors setter Ella Curcio and right side Amber Poore also dressed often last year.

Kaiser and Curcio will be joined by sophomore setter Ellie Fogarty, who will also play outside some. Juniors Macie Taylor and Breanna Gray will also add firepower to the outside, with sophomore Brynn Siler adding depth in the middle. Juniors Andrea Prenger and Lauren Rice will add depth on defense, and sophomore Kasey Sager will see time in the front row, mostly on the right side.

“We’re going to obviously be relying a lot on the experience of Hallie and Anna. They bring back a ton for us with their offensive skillset, their height and blocking,” Owen said. “Positionally, we’re pretty spread out with our experience, and we’re looking pretty solid right now — but it’s hard to tell when you’re not allowed to play anyone.”

The MVL has limited preseason scrimmages for its teams due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, with the league’s teams all playing league-only schedules in every sport. But with that the case, that just makes Troy more focused on its goal of winning another league title.

“Obviously, we really hope we’re in the running for the title again,” Owen said. “We split with Tipp last year, and that’s our goal every year, to win the league. I know the girls are really anxious to win it outright again, but we know Tipp’s got a really strong core of girls back again. Defensively, we’ll have to step our game up, because they’ve got all their strong weapons back, so that will be a huge challenge for us.

“We know we’ll have to bring it.”

• Tippecanoe

Tippecanoe broke into Troy’s eight-year division title streak last year, sharing the MVL Miami Division crown with the Trojans. This year, the Red Devils are hoping to claim the title outright and keep moving forward after last year’s 25-2 season.

“We want to maintain or surpass last season’s performance of 25-2, MVL co-champs, regional semifinalists and local and state recognitions,” Tippecanoe coach Howard Garcia said as he enters his seventh year with the team. “All that is based on each player being a better person and player, which results in being a better team.”

Leading the way for the Devils will be senior four-year starter Corinn Siefring (240 kills, 231 digs) on the outside and senior Rachel Wildermuth (196 kills, 89 blocks) — the returning MVL Player of the Year — in the middle. Junior Ashley Aselage and senior Kaitlyn Husic will add depth on the outside, while senior Molly Achtenberg will share the middle. Wildermuth also had 460 assists in Tippecanoe’s 6-2 offense, with sophomore Hannah Wildermuth assisting at setter. And on defense, senior Alayna Titley and sophomore Alex Voisard will shore up the back line.

• Piqua

Jordan Drake is back for a second year as Piqua coach and hopes to guide the Indians through a loaded MVL Miami Division season.

Versatile Aubree Schrubb returns on the outside and in the middle to help ease the loss of graduate Tylah Yeomans, with Jordan Adkins and Cara Reed also on the outside and Sydnee Hawk in the middle. Olivia Anthony and Camilla Nicholas will take over at setter, while Reagan Toopes and Marissa Bragg on the back line.

“We want to be more aggressive at the net offensively and defensively,” Drake said. “And we want a high dig and serve-receive percentage.”

• Miami East

Miami East has won 10 straight Cross County Conference titles and reached the regional tournament nine straight years — and this year, the Vikings are hoping to finish their CCC run with another title and make it a decade of regional berths.

“As a program, our goal is to make it to state every year, and this team has a good shot of making it back to regionals,” fifth-year Miami East coach Dan Peterson said. “We are a pretty young team compared to what we usually have, but I am confident those young players will make some big strides very quickly. It won’t be easy, but that’s why we play the games.”

The Vikings have plenty of returning talent despite their youth. Back on the outside will be senior Sierra Kinnison and sophomores Meg Gilliland, Ava Jacomet and Kylee McKinney, with junior Kayly Fetters and sophomore Megan McDowell in the middle. Senior Lauren Wright and sophomore Emma Bowman will lend strength to the defense, with freshman Ava Price taking over the setter’s role.

• Milton-Union

Courtney Wion returns for her second season as Milton-Union coach, and she wants to see the Bulldogs leave a lasting legacy in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division after finishing tied for second behind Waynesville last year.

“This is our last year in the SWBL, so we are striving to give our all and leave everything we can on the court,” Wion said. “Our theme this year is ‘leave a legacy,’ so my girls are thinking of what kind of legacy we want to leave behind us as we move forward into next year.”

Leading the Bulldogs on the outside is senior Madison Jones, who had 293 kills and 407 digs last year, with Lacey Naff and Lindsay Todd in the middle. Emily Barker and Jenna Booher will handle the setting duties, while Rachel Bloom — who had 384 digs — and Diana Johnson will lend their skills on defense.

• Covington

With Miami East having dominated the CCC for a decade, Covington is hoping to contend in the league in its last season before moving on to the Three Rivers Conference in 2021.

“We want to work hard, have fun and finish strong in the final year of the CCC,” fifth-year Covington coach Lonnie Cain said. “We want to be in the top third of the CCC, with Miami East and Arcanum the teams to beat.”

Back for the Buccaneers are Nigella Reck and Lauren York on the outside and Ellery Reck at setter, with Carlie Besecker and Emmaline Kiser in the middle and Hillary Hoying and Alyssa Kimmel on the back line.

• Newton

Danita Rapp takes over the Indians volleyball program, a program that will be competing in its last year in the tough CCC.

“We want to improve our win-loss record and build a strong team family unit,” Rapp said.

Newton has Mia Dunlevy, Kaylee Deeter, Ashley Evans and Emma Hemphill on the outside this year and Katelyn Walters and Hannah Beidelman in the middle, with Ella Rapp handling the setting duties and Addison Peters, Eva Bowser, Molly Norman and Kylie Velkoff back on defense.

• Troy Christian

After going 17-7 and winning a postseason game last year, Troy Christian welcomes a new coach in Molli Baker and a host of young players, with only one senior on the roster.

That senior is in a key spot, though, as Lauren Montgomery returns at setter after leading the Metro Buckeye Conference in assists. Junior Emily Baker is also back on the outside along with Hallie Fourman, with Courtney Eschete and Natalie Courter in the middle and Gracie Crumbaker and Lilly Smith on defense.

“We have low numbers this year, but a very solid group of athletes,” Baker said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, and we are looking forward to competing against some very strong teams.”

• Bradford

Alisha Patty is back for her second year at the Railroaders’ helm, and she is hoping her experienced group can take steps forward in their final year in the CCC.

Buzz Brewer, Cassi Mead and Rylee Canan will share the setting duties and also hit on the outside along with Ally Wackler and Ramse Smith, with Aliviyah Boggs and Karissa Weldy in the middle and Maggie Manual, Kendall Hill, Canan and Maddie Simons shoring up the defense.

“The goal is to beat everyone,” Patty said. “We want to have a successful season with lots of fun.”

• Lehman

After the Cavaliers won the Northwest Central Conference title last year in coach Carolyn Dammeyer’s first year, Lehman is back and looking to go out as back-to-back league champs before joining the Three Rivers Conference in 2021.

“Our plans are to win the league again back-to-back,” Dammeyer said. “With the loss of five starting seniors, we have plenty of work to do. We want to show constant improvement and leadership, win the league and be competitive in every match.”

Reese Geise and Caroline Wesner bring experience back to the lineup, with Geise and Emma Westerheide on the outside and Emma Kennedy and Mara O’Leary in the middle. Wesner returns as setter with Megan Carlisle and Lucy Behr sharing those duties, while Pyper Sharkins, Taylor and MaKayla Geise on the back line.