Wayne County has been a hotbed for strong, competitive high school volleyball teams for a long time.
Last season 1A Cambridge City Lincoln and 2A Northeastern each captured sectional championships. Schools winning 20 or more matches included Lincoln (25), Northeastern (21), and Seton Catholic (20).
Hagerstown recorded its first losing game in 10 years with a record of 15-16, but still won the Wayne County Championship for a record eighth straight time and was sectional runner-up.
After making the move from 2A to 3A, Centerville won six early season matches before being swept in eight of its last nine matches.
Darrell Morken took over the coaching duties at Richmond to begin a rebuilding process, but still managed to win seven matches.
Entering this season Centerville and Seton Catholic will both have new coaches while Richmond’s best player might be a transfer student.
Northeastern will be the area team to beat while Hagerstown will likely be the biggest obstacle in the Lady Knights’ path to a Tri-Eastern title and another deep post-season tournament run.
(1A) Cambridge City Lincoln
Veteran head coach Greg Seidner guided his Lady Eagles to 25 wins and a sectional championship last season. Eagles key players Kaila Arthur, Mallory Burns, Grace Sherwood and Kelsey Stevens graduated, but the cupboard for the upcoming season is far from bare.
Seidner, the dean of area coaches, will have nine players back from his regional team a year ago. Among the most notable returnees are Mia Cupp, Paige Lunsford and Reagan Sturgis. Cupp accumulated 330 digs and 237 kills last year. Sturgis had 55 kills, 119 digs, and 120 assists. Lunsford supplied 229 digs. The Lady Eagles will host Connersville on Wednesday, Aug. 9, for a preseason scrimmage before opening regular season on Wednesday, Aug. 16, with a match at Seton Catholic.
James Balser will be the new head coach at Centerville, and he will not be the only new face. The Lady Bulldogs struggled through a six-win season last year. They were swept eight times in their last nine matches and six of their top players graduated.
Coach Balser will be starting with a roster that has limited varsity playing experience. Chloe Goodman is the top returnee for the Lady Bulldogs. The Lady Bulldogs will scrimmage against Franklin County on Wednesday, Aug. 9, on the Lady Wildcat court before traveling to New Castle on Monday, Aug. 17, to open regular-season play.
The Hagerstown Lady Tigers will keep up the good work they’ve been doing during head coach Brian Dale’s tenure. They will be talented, well prepared and confident every time they step on the court. They will also be able to play a tall front line that will be difficult for opposing defenses to contain and back it with solid defense.
The Lady Tigers graduated four players, but they return nine players from their sectional roster last season and have other young players fighting for playing time.
Hannah Pyle and Hattie Hobbs combined for over 300 kills last season. Ella Logston and Emma Snodgrass combined for over 650 assists. Rylan Young had 458 digs and 42 service aces. Lindsey Golliher, Kasiti Ferriell, Hobbs and Snodgrass combined for nearly 800 more digs, and they all return.
The Lady Tigers will play a pre-season scrimmage at North Decatur on Thursday, Aug. 10, before opening regular season on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Franklin County.
Matt Fisher returns for his second year as the head coach of the Lady Knights. It will be hard to top the success Fisher found in his first year in his second year, but the players are in place to do it. The Lady Knights won 21 games and the sectional title last year before winning their opening-round regional game to advance to the Elite Eight. The Lady Knights return a wealth of talent. Emma Neeley and Lilly Null combined for over 450 kills last year. Lilly and Olivia Null combined for nearly 650 digs. Ella Coddington and Neeley supplied 300 more digs. Coddington also distributed more than 800 assists. There is no substitute for experienced players and previous post season success; the Lady Knights have both. Northeastern will travel to Seton Catholic Wednesday, Aug. 9, to scrimmage against the Lady Cardinals before traveling to Morristown on Saturday, Aug. 12, to participate in the Morristown Classic to open regular-season play. The Knights are the defending champions of the event.
When Darrell Morken took over as head coach at Richmond last year, one of his stated goals was to rebuild the program from the bottom up. Progress has been apparent. Interest in volleyball at the lower levels has skyrocketed and long-term prospects are bright.
At the varsity level numbers are a concern. The year before Morken took over the Lady Red Devils won 20 matches, but they also graduated nearly every player in their rotation.
Last season, the Lady Red Devils had numerous players graduate. The 2023 Lady Red Devils will lack substantial varsity playing experience, but if last year is an indicator they will improve over the course of the season. Transfer student Hannah Johnston should provide veteran help. The Lady Red Devils will open regular season play with a road match at Pendleton Heights on Monday, Aug. 14, before returning to the Tiernan Center on Wednesday, Aug. 16, to face Winchester Community.
(1A) Seton Catholic
The Lady Cardinals will have a new coach on the sidelines this year and she will have substantial talent to work with.
Emily Tremain will take over the program that has been under the leadership of Anne Wissel for the last two seasons. The Lady Cardinals have won sectional titles in two of the last three years and were a 20-game winner last season. They will be a serious threat to win the sectional again this season.
Ella Berger and Kara Berger graduated, and Hannah Johnston transferred, but nine players from last year’s Sectional roster returned. Most notable among the returnees is middle hitter Bryn VanVleet. VanVleet led the Lady Cardinals in kills, blocks and service aces last season and finished third in digs behind the Berger sisters. Bella Cornell also returns after leading the Lady Cardinals in assists last season.
The Lady Cardinals host Northeastern on Wednesday, Aug. 9, in a preseason scrimmage before opening regular season play on Saturday, Aug. 12, by hosting a round-robin match with International and Union (Modoc).
A version of this article appeared in the August 2 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.