For the last decade or so, the Western Big 6 Conference hasn't been the place to look for tantalizing, new volleyball preseason storylines, and the dawn of a new decade is starting out very much the same.|
Again emerges two titans -- the title-defending Quincy Blue Devils and the title-challenging Moline Maroons -- expected to toil at the top in a league of their own in 2010. Quincy will try for its third consecutive undefeated Big 6 season, and Moline will try to tear away the crown as they did briefly in 2007.
While the storyline is stagnate, the landscape is not. Gone from Quincy is the irreplaceable, do-everything setter Hannah Kvitle, and gone from Moline is equally talented setter Sarah Fetter.
That's where Moline's journey begins.
"Right now, we're just trying to get settled in with a couple of new setters and trying to get to a comfortable, high level of play with those setters," said Moline coach Tim Albrecht.
Those setters will be newcomers Kylie Romeo and Abby Ryser, a junior and sophomore, respectively. Albrecht says the team confidence has been growing over the last few weeks and he eyes the competitive Edwardsville Tournament as a key measuring stick. Moline surprised some onlookers when they won the tourney last season.
Meanwhile, it will be up to a an experienced senior set of hitters to carry the rest. In the middle is Marquisha Harris and Lexie Holst. Sam Fournier will attack from the right side and Lauren Arnold from the outside.
Quincy, meanwhile, loses six seniors and tries to replace some vacancies in the middle. Still, fifth-year coach Barb Crist is confident with the Devils' chances.
"I really, honestly feel we can fight for the first position again," she said. "I know Moline will be a challenge. My younger kids will have to step up."
The rest of the conference, as usual, is up for grabs, with Galesburg defending the "race-for-third" title at 4-6 in 2010. Silver Streaks coach Marla Clay calls her 2010 team "scrappy," but with a height disadvantage. They hope for 20 wins this season after earning 14 a year ago.
Alleman (3-7 in WB6 last year) hopes to continue its strides under first-year coach Jody Bell. The Pioneers will be tall in the middle with Katie Kakert, Moira MacLennan and Zoe Kelso each 6-feet or better.
United Township wants to improve on its three-win conference season, and they'll have one of the conference's best weapons to do so in standout junior hitter Erin Walker.
"Consistency is going to be key," said UT coach Callyn Dittmar. "We have a lot of newcomers this year. We're just trying to cut down on our unforced errors."
Rock Island coach Bill Churchill said his squad is coming off of a "Murphy's Law" 2009, where everything that could go wrong did so for the Rocks in a 1-9 Big 6 effort. This season, he expects improvement. There will be a big hole left by departed hitter Kayla Daugherty, but Churchill hopes to fill it with eight letterwinners, including senior hitters Bailey McChesney and Moriah Shivers.
"I think our skill level, overall, is the best we've had since I've been here," said Churchill, a fifth-year coach. "Whether or not that translates into victories, we'll have to wait and see."
Western Big 6 Conference volleyball capsules
Coach: Jody Bell (1st year).
2009: 14-20 (3-7 in WB6). Lost to Monmouth-Roseville in Class 2A regional semis.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Katie Bain (S), Carly Flack (OH), Alexis Girot (DS), Katie Kakert (MH), Moira MacLennan (MH), Jade Swineheart (DS), Andie Woods (OH).
Key Newcomers: Jrs. Crista Campos (OH), Christine Ebeelt (MH), Kasey Fisher (S), Samantha Glackin (OH), Hannah Nelsen (OH), Carla Papageorgiu (MH), Katie Polit (S/DS), Missy Sheraden (OH). So. Zoe Kelso (MH).
Galesburg Silver Streaks
Coach: Marla Clay (17th year).
2009: 14-16 (4-6). Lost to Dunlap in the Class 3A regional semis.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Amy Blucker (MH), Sydney Edwards (OH), Jorden Thomas (S/OH). Jrs. Kelsey Meredith (MH), Paige Klinck (OH).
Key newcomers: Jrs. Emily Camper (OH), Myra Diggins (RSH), Taylor Holmstrom (S), Chelsey Weigand (DS).
Coach: Tim Albrecht (12th year).
2009: 31-4 (8-2). Lost to Quincy in Class 4A regional championship.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Lauren Arnold (OH), Lexie Holst (MH), Sam Fournier (RSH), Marquisha Harris (MH), Kirstin King (OH/L), Lindsey Nelson (L).
Key newcomers: Jrs. Morgan Houser (OH), Katy McColl (L), Morgan McConnel (RSH), Kylie Romeo (S). Sos. Becky Hinz (OH), Olivia Larson (OH), Abby Ryser (S).
Quincy Blue Devils
Coach: Barb Crist (5th year).
2009: 37-5 (10-0) Lost to LaGrange Lyons in the Class 4A state third-place match.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Sommer Holder (L), Brittany Houghton (OH), Angela Shupe (RSH/OH). Jrs. Abbie Foster (DS), Olivia Steudle (DS). Sos. Alex Dietrich (MH), India Green (S), Michaela Llewellyn (OH).
Key newcomer: Fr. Monica Bumbry (MH).
Rock Island Rocks
Coach: Bill Churchill (5th year).
2009: 13-23 (1-9). Lost to Geneseo in the Class 3A regional semis.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Bailey McChesney (OH), Moriah Shivers (OH). Jrs. Katie Helmers (DS), Miranda Johnson (S/DS), Rayven Morrow (MH), Lauren Powell (OH). Sos. Jacqueline Twing (S), Katie Williams (DS).
Key newcomers: Sr. Kasey Brent (DS). Jrs. Shamell Mangrum (OH), Jazmin Rodriguez (OH), Taylor Summers-Berger (DS). Sos. Samantha Kirzeder (DS), DeJonee McCormick (OH). Fr. Hailey Feldhahn (MH).
United Township Panthers
Coach: Callyn Dittmar (2nd year).
2009: 16-16 (3-7). Lost to Quincy in the Class 4A regional semis.
Returning letterwinners: Srs. Bailey Escontrias (RSH/MH), Shelby Jacobson (S), Chaise Nache (DS/L), Kelsey Watson (OH/RSH), Sydney Wulgaert (OH). Jr. Erin Walker Jr. (OH).
Key newcomers: Jrs. Jordyn Gargus (MH/RSH), Lizzy Goebel (OH), Jessica Harper (MH/OH), Molly Johnson (DS), Emalee Leigh (OH/RSH), Alex Meeske (S), Breanna Nevarez (OH).