While some area volleyball teams are reloading from last season, others find themselves rebuilding, but one thing is certain: Talent will be the theme for the season, across the board.
Both Polk County (1-A) and West Henderson (3-A) are fresh off deep runs into the 2018 playoffs where they fell just short of taking the state titles.
Polk fell in three close sets to Falls Lake Academy at the 1-A state championship, but everyone except two returned this season for the Lady Wolverines.
“One of the biggest differences people will see from last year is our confidence level and the ability to hang in there with bigger 3-A and 4-A schools,” said Polk head coach Molly Hill. “Having so many returners this year after what we accomplished last year, and the belief we have in each other, I think it’s going to be there and then some this year.”
Polk Players to Watch: Grace Lauer (Sr, OH), Mireya Roman (Sr, MB), Marilyn Castillo (Sr, RS)
West gets back four starters, with the ultimate goal of going all the way to the 3-A state championship match. The focus for the Lady Falcons this season is speeding up the pace of their game, with two returning middle hitters at the helm.
“We’re speeding up the game a lot. The girls have really worked hard in the offseason, and I think our middles will run the show. We’re focused on not having to go to the outside every single ball,” said West coach Tiffany Lowrance. “It’s easy to worry because you lost seven seniors but it’s also nice to know that our program just continually keeps getting sparked.”
West Players to Watch: Malia Moore (Jr, S), America Anderson (Jr, MB), Daija Jackson (Jr, MB)
Brevard graduated just one starter from last season, after winning its conference (Mountain 6) for the first time in school history. The 2-A program has not only replenished itself, but with notable height across the front row, and more disciplined defense on the back row.
“Our defense is looking better than it has in several years,” said Brevard coach Cori Bryson. “We’ve talked a lot about our peak, and about keeping our stamina throughout the season. If we need to take some losses early in the season to get better and learn from them then that’s what we’ll do.”
Brevard Players to Watch: Kaitlyn Pressley (Sr, S), Madison Baldridge (Sr, MH), Brooklyn Rising (Sr, OH)
East Henderson finished just under Brevard in the Mountain 6 Conference, at second place, but defeated Brevard in the conference tournament. The Lady Eagles return only two starters, but the junior class which makes up the bulk of the team, went 22-1 last season on JV.
“We will definitely come out and be competitive; this team shows that fire and competitiveness that can lead to a successful season,” said East first-year head coach Sabrina Cairnes. “This core group of juniors has been together since seventh grade; they have been playing together through seasonal and club ball which has helped them come together.”
East Henderson Players to Watch: Clair Erwin (Jr, OH), Emma Gilliam (Jr, S),
Hendersonville is led by former Lady Bearcat standout Hailey Cook, in her second season as head coach. HHS had a slower start to its 2018 season, but finished strong. With four returning starters leading a young team, Cook sees nothing but potential and talent.
“Our strongest asset will be having so many players that are versatile. In the past we’ve had just the front row or just defense, but this season we have several who actually can play all the way around,” Cook said. “You don’t see it very often.”
Hendersonville Players to Watch: Chloe Conroy (So, OH), Marli Gmyrek (Sr, L), Anna Doode (Sr, DS)
Rosman has brought back former volleyball and basketball standout Ashton Barton Williams to her alma mater to coach this season, alongside Jessica Merrill Whitmire, another former Lady Tiger standout. Rosman is a young team composed mostly of sophomores, but with experience as there will be five returning starters.
“It’s a fresh start for us but it’s also familiar,” Williams said. “Our defense is our greatest strength right now. We don’t have amazing height but we have some good athletes, and our defense is what we build our program on.”
Rosman Players to Watch: Josie Chappell (So, S), Ashley Hoxit (Jr, OH), Elizabeth Daves (So, DS)
Though North Henderson lost only one starter, its go-to player, 6-0 junior Linnea Harris, recently went down with a season-ending injury in a preseason practice. The focus now for the Lady Knights is resiliency.
“The whole team will have to assume that loss of skill and step up,” said North coach Sue Moon. “Our defense will have to be a little better, our hitters will have to have more tools in their arsenal so that we keep teams off kilter. have the capability to still be a very good team.”
North Players to Watch: Bailey Malloy (Sr, L), Abigail Hedgepath (Sr, S), Ashley Patton (Sr, OH)