Volleyball teams ready for exciting 2007 season

Tue, 08/14/2007 - 2:22pm
By: Michael Boylan

OLM volleyball practice Sophomore Megan Malasarte, L, and junior Sierra Bivins practice their serves at a recent Our Lady of Mercy volleyball practice. Photo/Michael Boylan.

Several local volleyball teams got so close to state titles last year that visions of hoisting trophies this year must be dancing in the heads of coaches, players and fans right now. Six local teams made the state playoffs in their respective classifications last year and all of them are hoping to make a return trip and go even further this year.

• Fayette County
Head coach - Cheryl Laporte
Last year - 4-23

The Lady Tigers were in a big rebuilding year last year and, as anyone can tell you, that doesn’t always translate to a lot of fun. Fayette County will find out where it will stand early on this season. It enters the Sequoyah tournament this weekend, which will serve as preparation for what will undoubtedly be a tough region schedule. Senior Beth Hayes, a middle hitter and blocker, will try to be a leader on the team. This is her third year on the varsity roster.

• Landmark Christian
Head coach - Barb Mason
Last year - 24-16

The Lady War Eagles of Landmark Christian School made the state playoffs once again last year, but it wasn’t their best season. They did have an eight-game winning streak start late in September, but they closed out the season with three losses in a row. It was the first time since 2000 that the Lady War Eagles did not win an area title. Landmark has four seniors, two juniors and two sophomores on this year’s roster and only graduated one player (Christian Hunnicutt) from last year’s team. Seniors Diamond Hunnicutt, Deondria Terrell, Stephene Cash and Whitney Wright will try to lead Landmark back to the playoffs and back to contention for a state title.

• McIntosh
Head coach - Wendy Weaver
Last year - 32-16

The Lady Chiefs lost in the state quarterfinals last year, but return a solid bunch. They have seven returning varsity players, including five seniors. Of their seven returners, three girls -- Leigh Moyer, Kendall Wilde, and Elyse Chubb -- were all-area team selections, and Moyer was also an all-state selection last season.
“We have some big shoes to fill losing last season’s senior all-star Samantha Krehel at the outside hitter’s position, but senior Morgann Mitchell is coming on strong,” said Weaver. “This season’s team is experienced and talented. It’s going to be awesome to see them play. You won’t want to miss it!”

• Our Lady of Mercy
Head coach - Bill Schmitz
Last year - 19-22

The Lady Bobcats made the state playoffs last year but lost in the first round to Savannah Christian. Their goal this year is to make the playoffs as a No. 3 and advance further than the first round. It is a big goal for a team that lost six seniors, but they have some experience and a desire to win. Captains Elaine Schortman and Katie Bischoff, both seniors, will lead the team with their defense and their tenacity. They will get a boost from the return of senior Kelly Tolcher, who played in her freshman and sophomore years, and transfer Taylor Cortez, a junior. Senior Lauren Wiggins is perhaps the team’s most versatile player.

“We have as much or more talent than we did last year,” said Schmitz. “We’re just inexperienced.”
The team will get a lot of experience very quickly. They hosted Sandy Creek last night and will travel to a tournament in Savannah this weekend.

• Sandy Creek
Head coach - Paul Collins
Last year - 50-12

The Lady Patriots were the 6-AAA area champions and made the Class AAA final four where they lost to eventual state champion Blessed Trinity. Sandy Creek returns its entire squad this year and has the kind of team that most coaches only dream of having. The Lady Patriots feature three seniors and six juniors, all of whom are hungry to return to the state playoffs and win a state title. Seniors Olympia Haney, Talyah Mueller and Jessie Ruple have played together since middle school and are fortunate enough to have skilled juniors behind them who have taken leadership roles themselves in their quest for a title.

Expectations are high for this team, but no one on the team wants to get ahead of themselves.

“If we play for every point, we’ll be fine,” said Collins, who knows that his team does not have the element of surprise this season.
Sandy Creek opened with some local matches this week and will play in the Sequoyah tournament this weekend.

• Starr’s Mill
Head coach - Dottie Licciardi
Last year - 44-11

The Lady Panthers were area champions again last year and almost captured another state title but fell short, losing to Marist in the Class AAAA final. The team returns five seniors including top prospect and one of the top 50 players in the nation, Mary Chaudoin, whom Licciardi calls “the complete package.” Other seniors on the squad are Chrissy Culp, Hayley Faith, Jalee Walters and Alexis Shaffer. The team knows what it takes to become a champion and also knows that by playing in Licciardi’s system, they have a great chance to raise another banner at their school.

“We’re very strong,” Licciardi said. “We just to have to take one game at a time. The girls have high expectations, and I have high expectations. We’ll be competitive.”

Starr’s Mill opens the season Saturday in the Sequoyah tournament.

• Whitewater
Head coach - Ben Thacker
Last year - 27-17

The Lady Wildcats made the state playoffs last year and lost to Greenbrier in the first round. It was the first time in school history that Whitewater finished with a winning record in volleyball. The goal is to build upon last season’s success and make it back to the state playoffs. Whitewater has an experienced team coming back, with six returning starters, including four seniors: captain Casey Howett, Katie Holland, Amanda Holland and Vanessa Warner.

“The Wildcat volleyball program took a big turnaround last year in getting to finish third in the tough Area 3 and getting into the state playoffs,” Thacker said. “We could challenge rivals McIntosh and Starr’s Mill in Area 3. We were very young last year and are hopeful that the experience we gained in those tough matches will help us bring composure and intensity when it counts most.”

Staff writer Kevin Wandra contributed to this story.

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