By all accounts, the 2013 Lincoln Trail Conference volleyball season could see Sciota West Prairie once again cut a swath through the competition.|
Returning all of their starters from a club that ran the table in 10 LTC matches last fall, the Cyclones are the consensus choice among conference coaches to make it a title repeat in their final season of Lincoln Trail membership.
However, that doesn't mean the other teams are about to concede the championship. One of the teams with maybe the best chance of corralling the 'Clones is Wethersfield (25-13), coming off its first Class 1A regional championship since 2007. The Lady Geese return a nucleus of seven letterwinners led by senior setter Kristen Parsons (502 assists, 220 digs) and junior middle hitter Kayli Smith (183 kills, 85 blocks).
"I think (West Prairie) will have competition between us and United,'' said Wethersfield coach Tonya Vincent. "We're going to play hustling volleyball like we always do, but now we have a lot of height, which is a luxury we haven't always had before, with Kayli and (junior MH) Karissa (Roman). Plus, we have a two-year starting setter with Kristen, who I think is one of the best around.
"We're definitely ready. We had a pretty good summer, and we want that to continue.''
Also ready to go are the aforementioned United Red Storm, who are just two years removed from their own perfect LTC title run. Last fall, Coach Carrie Boone's club annexed its sixth regional championship in nine years, and its first in Class 2A, before falling in the sectional semifinals to eventual third-place state finisher Riverdale.
Graduation took several of last year's standouts -- including all-conference standouts Andi Hendrix, Cassandra Ellison and Michelle Ravel -- from the roster, and United has only two starters returning in seniors Jenn Price and Brea Simkins at outside hitter and setter, respectively.
"We graduated six seniors, but I'm not worried about us being younger,'' said Boone. "Losing those six is a big hit, but every team will take a hit like that. It just depends on what you do, and the players we have out there are young, but they work hard, and we have great senior leadership. It makes my job easier.''
At Mercer County, the Golden Eagles head into the new season coming off back-to-back winning campaigns but with their third coach in three seasons. Former assistant Amy Degelman stepped aside after one season, with Lonnie Rinell taking her place.He inherits a team that returns eight letterwinners, a group led by senior middle hitter Brooke Nelson (155 kills, 35 blocks).
"We have a pretty decent offense; I'm just concerned a bit about our defense, passing and serve-receive,'' said Rinell. "But we'll iron those out. The LTC is going to be tough, but they're anxious to get going. We've got a lot of skilled players who are excited about doing well in their senior season.''
Looking to move up the ladder is Annawan (11-20), which has a fairly young team led by the senior hitters Megan Foes and Paige Randall. However, a solid nucleus of younger players has hopes buoyed in the Bravettes' camp this year.
"There's a lot of potential this year; the sky's the limit with these kids,'' said Annawan coach Caitlyn Corwin. "These are good kids, and they know the hard work that has to be put in to succeed. They know what goals they want to reach, and they're willing to work hard to reach them. If we stay together and work as a team, it could really be great.
"In the LTC, I think West Prairie, United and Wethersfield are always the teams to beat, but I don't think you should count us out this year after our sophomores tied for second in the conference last season.''
Meanwhile, Ridgewood looks to bounce back from a 6-23 finish last fall, as does Galva, with the latter team led by first-year coach Breanne Christiansen. At Ridgewood, Coach Lisa Miller hopes to build on the success enjoyed by the Spartans' JV squad last year as those younger players blend with a squad led by juniors Katie Miller and Paige Wexell.
"I feel like we're starting off a lot better than we did last year, so I'm very optimistic about this season,'' said Miller.
2013 LINCOLN TRAIL CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL CAPSULES
Coach: Caitlyn Corwin (4th year).
2012: 11-20 (4-6 LTC), lost 27-25, 25-15 to Wethersfield in the Class 1A Wethersfield Regional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Megan Foes (OH), Paige Randall (MH), Kelly Curran (Libero). Jrs.: Rachael Peterson (S), Kate Sturtewagen (DS), Kaila Dunfee (MH/RSH).
Newcomers -- Jr.: Molly DeDecker (BR). Soph.: Taylor Shaw (OH), Taylor Miller (MH), Kayla DeMay (RSH).
Galva Lady Cats
Coach: Breanne Christiansen (1st year).
2012: 6-23 (1-9 LTC), lost 25-16, 21-25, 25-9 to Annawan in the first round of the Class 1A Wethersfield Regional.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Mackenzie Kitterman (S), LeAnn Meyer (OH), Kylee Sall (OH). Jrs.: Lydia Heinevik (OH), Rachel VanDeVelde (S), Curran O'Riley (DS).
Mercer County Golden Eagles
Coach: Lonnie Rinell (1st year).
2012: 17-16 (5-5 LTC), lost 25-23, 25-18 to United in the Class 2A Mercer County Regional finals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Brooke Nelson (MH), Kate Baugher (LSH), Michaela Baker (LSH), Whitley Frieden (LSH), Becca Askew (LSH), Shelby Reid (S), Kristin Heath (MH), Bridget Anderson (BR/Libero).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Emily Lower (MH), Bailey Swanson (S), Hannah Terrill (MH/OH).
Coach: Lisa Miller (5th year).
2012: 6-23 (2-8 LTC), lost 25-22, 25-16 to Kewanee in the first round of the Class 2A Orion Regional.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Ashley Collins (OH), Caitie Allen (OH), Mary Koby (OH), Kelsey Manasco (DS). Jrs.: Katie Miller (S/OH), Paige Wexell (MH/DS).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Mady Smith (OH), Taylor Reed (DS), Sidney Riordan (DS/OH), Mikayla Poppy (MH), Kristin Litton (DS), Saraya Meirhaeghe (S). Soph.: Megan Reed (MH/S).
United Red Storm
Coach: Carrie Boone (3rd year).
2012: 26-7 (8-2 LTC), lost 25-15, 25-15 to Riverdale in the Class 2A Sherrard Sectional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Jenn Price (OH), Brea Simkins (S), Miranda Tharp (Libero), Carolyn King (S), Ollie Urbanski (RSH). Jr.: Emily Hull (MH).
Newcomers -- Sr.: Lauren Sperry (MH). Jrs.: Maddie Ballard (DS), Christy Johnson (OH). Soph.: Abby McKee (MH).
Wethersfield Lady Geese
Coach: Tonya Vincent (8th year).
2012: 25-13 (7-3 LTC), lost 25-16, 25-12 to Mount Pulaski in the Class 1A Williamsfield Sectional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Kristen Parsons (S), Mary DeBord (OH), McKenzie Hoogerwerf (OH). Jrs.: Kayli Smith (MH), Karissa Roman (MH), Katie Thomson (DS). Soph.: Ali Kazubowski (OH).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Anna Jontz (OH), Julia Thomson (DS). Soph.: Anissa Jackson (OH).