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VOLLEYBALL SEASON PREVIEW: Pioneers, Dragons, Lions defend titles

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In Clark and Floyd counties, there were three 30-win teams — Providence, Christian Academy and Silver Creek — in addition to two 20-win teams — Rock Creek and Charlestown — last year.

Two others — Floyd Central and New Washington — had unbeaten runs to conference championships and approached the 20-win mark.

While some talented players graduated from some of these programs, opportunity abounds for newcomers and hard-working returnees alike.

Here are five big questions for Southern Indiana high school volleyball:

1. Can Providence contend for a 4A state title?

With an enrollment under 400 — a fraction of many teams it will face in the state tournament — Providence looks to do what Yorktown accomplished in 2018 and be the smallest 4A team to win a state title.

Three Division I players will help. Junior outside hitter Ali Hornung is a Purdue commit, senior outside hitter Courtney Glotzbach is headed to Jacksonville State next year and senior libero Ceci Rush is a Louisville commit.

Senior middle blocker Maggie Purichia, junior outside hitter Anna Purichia and junior setter Emma Kaelin round out an experienced leadership group for coach Terri Purichia.

Purichia is eager to watch her team develop its on-court chemistry.

Providence Floyd Central volleyball-4.jpg

Providence's Anna (6) and Maggie (8) Purichia attempt to block the spike from Floyd Cenral's Molly Stoppert during the Pioneers' three-set win over the Highlanders. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart

“I have been looking forward to this season because I love the personality of these players off the court as people,” Purichia said. “They are tremendous kids, and value each other so much. They have a great chemistry off of the court. We have been working hard to get that off court chemistry to show itself on the floor, and while we are nowhere near where we want to be, each and every one of these kids is making great efforts everyday to make the team better.”

2. What is the ceiling for Floyd Central?

Pretty high, according to coach Bart Powell, who loses a strong senior group but reloads with a talented group of young players.

“It’s a very promising group. I’ve had some really good teams in my 14 years in this program, really good teams. We’ve been in the Final Four several times, final eight seven times in the last 14 years. But from top to bottom the most talented group I’ve had in the gym,” Powell said.

3. Which program will be the most improved from a year ago?

Jeffersonville and New Albany would be the leaders here. Coach Wes Briscoe, who had great success at Christian Academy, looks to rebuild the Red Devils. He’s not afraid to say the goals are high right away.

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Jeff coach Wes Briscoe. 

“There’s always a lot of learning curves. The sky’s the limit. Myself and my coaches are making sure the expectations, our expectations, are really high as a coaching staff. We know what they’re capable of accomplishing. They haven’t had that drilled in their head over the last few years. they haven’t had that consistency. That stuff’s gonnna change and it’s gonna be good. I’m not guaranteeing anything. We want to change from having losing seasons to having winning seasons,” Briscoe said. “We’ve got to figure out how to win this season. If that happens quick enough, we could be a 20-win team this season. I think they’ll surprise some people. “

New Albany has 10 players returning from a 16-19 team in 2018 and second-year coach Ryan Woosley hopes to see progress.

“We have a very deep bench where on any given night a different individual can step up. We are very excited to start the season and look forward to be playing our best volleyball during sectionals,” Woosley said.

4. Who has the longest sectional championship streak?

Providence has won eight straight sectional crowns. Silver Creek and Rock Creek are hoping to contend for third consecutive sectional titles.

5. Who will be the next player to commit to playing Division I volleyball?

A 6-foot-2 outside hitter, Rock Creek’s Ligia Williams of Rock Creek is beginning to draw serious Division I interest, coach Jennifer Brown said.

Ligia Williams

Rock Creek's Ligia Williams gets the kill over Jeffersonville blockers Kaylee Falkenstein (8) and Hannah Thibideau (5) on Aug. 23, 2018. 

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TEAM CAPSULES

BORDEN

• HEAD COACH: Jacquie Farris

• LAST SEASON: 2-16

• KEY LOSSES: Hayden Martin, Madison Owens, Gabby Thomas and Abby Stonesipher.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Junior outside hitter Josey Cheatham, senior middle hitter Dayton Nale, senior Chloe Holtshouser, senior Carolyn Boone, junior Ella Wagner.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Freshman outside hitter Paige Robinson and sophomore middle hitter Ella Perkinson.

• OUTLOOK: Farris takes over after coaching junior varsity and the Braves hope to receive a boost from the freshman Robinson, taking some pressure off Cheatham and Nale, the top two returning offensive weapons. The Braves hope to be more competitive throughout the season, Farris said.

• FARRIS SAYS: “We don’t have a ton of height. I feel like as long as you know the game and can play it quicker, we’ll be fine. We do have some talent. I'm just hoping for a good season and that they learn a lot. The rest will follow.”

CHARLESTOWN

• HEAD COACH: Roxanne Nuxoll

• LAST SEASON: 20-12

• KEY LOSSES: None to graduation.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Outside hitter Savannah Spencer, middle blocker Korea Tutt, right-side hitter Hailey Stricker, outside hitter Kayleigh Smith, setter/right-side hitter Lanae’ Crowe, defensive specialist/libero Abbi East and middle blocker Kylie McConnell.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Defensive specialist/setter Hannah Baker, middle blocker Katelyn Devers, setter Emma Obermeier, outside hitter/right-side hitter Sadee Goedeker and setter Maci Vaughn.

• OUTLOOK: Charlestown looks to continue its recent success in the upper half of the Mid-Southern Conference race. This team will work hard to continue the success that has been seen in the Charlestown program over the past few years. They are working toward a 21-plus win season and a top half finish in the conference.

• NUXOLL SAYS: “Although we have lost some players, we have a strong core remaining from last year’s team. Our returning players will bring confidence and experience. We will look to our seniors for leadership on the court.”

CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

• HEAD COACH: Chrissy Millen

• LAST SEASON: 30-10, Class 2A state runner-up after winning a seventh straight sectional, sixth straight regional and fifth straight semistate title.

• KEY LOSSES: Lexi Lester, Kenzie Carter, Julia Lostutter, Bekah Deich

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Senior outside hitter Kendall Kerberg, setter/outside hitter Halle Rankin and setter/right-side hitter Adeline Baldwin

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Sophomore libero Abby Vancampen

• OUTLOOK: Following several successful seasons that saw the Warriors advance to the state final five years in a row, CAI makes the move to 3A postseason play in 2019. Despite the loss of a strong senior class, CAI brings back two quality setters in junior Adeline Baldwin, who was 2nd on the team in assists last season and a healthy Halle Rankin. The latter is set to make an immediate impact offensively not only from the setting position but the outside hitting position as well. This season also sees the return of senior first-team all-state Kendall Kerberg, who led the 2018 Warriors in aces and kills and finished second in digs.

• MILLEN SAYS: “We have a strong group of upperclassmen returning this season from last year’s state run that we will be leaning on for leadership and experience. Joining them is a solid group of underclassmen with some varsity experience that saw steady improvement over the course of the summer. I am looking forward to seeing how they come together as a team throughout the next couple months in hopes to make another deep run in the postseason.”

CLARKSVILLE

• HEAD COACH: Carson Roos

• LAST SEASON: 0-21.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Maddie Hamilton, Grace Seward, Shelby Howell, Alissa Mallot, Jasmine Walker, Karlyn Frazier

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Freshmen Dahja Gaines, Shalynn Murphy, Caden Owens and Savannah Appell.

• OUTLOOK: Clarksville didn’t win a single set last season but has already improved upon that in a 3-1 home-opening loss to South Central. With several freshmen gaining varsity experience, the Generals’ should be able to make progress.

• ROOS SAYS: Following an opening-season loss to South Central: “We look forward to having more players released and able to compete later this month.”

FLOYD CENTRAL

• HEAD COACH: Bart Powell

• LAST SEASON: 17-18 overall, 7-0 in the Hoosier Hills Conference.

• KEY LOSSES: Setter Sara Sans, Cassie Thomerson, Cameron Plaiss, Riley Woodruff.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Senior libero Kassidy Hoback, outside hitter senior Eli Boehnlein, junior defensive specialist Ahna Cobb, junior outside hitter Molly Stoppert, junior defensive specialist Anna Hilbrich, junior middle hitter Kayden Holcomb and junior defensive specialist Keegan Kaiser.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Senior setter Lizzy Kane, junior setter Courtney Combs, sophomore outside hitter Natalie Lostutter, sophomore Kyra Sharp, freshman outside hitter Caroline Hilbrich and freshman middle hitter Kylie Minnis.

• OUTLOOK: The Highlanders were 17-18 against a very strong schedule in 2018 and several freshman are in the mix to help the Highlanders attempt to defend their Hoosier Hills Conference title.

• POWELL SAYS: “We have our moments that we’re pretty decent and moments where we’re not very decent.”

HENRYVILLE

• HEAD COACH: Christy Nunn

• LAST SEASON: 11-13

• KEY LOSSES: Jalyn Micahel, Alya Ryan, Eden Ryan, Kenzie Rappe.

• RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Haley Terry, Avery King, Riley Nunn, Charleigh Ryan, Emily Bush.

• NEWCOMERS: Freshmen Kylie Lacy and Taylor Long, junior Dilyn Roberts, junior Kaylee Hardesty and senior Callie DeVore.

• OUTLOOK: Henryville won 11 matches last season and looks to get to the other side of the .500 mark in 2019.

• MILLEN SAYS: “We have the opportunity to have a great season, I am expecting them to seize the opportunity.”

JEFFERSONVILLE

• HEAD COACH: Wes Briscoe

• LAST SEASON: 13-17

• KEY LOSSES: Marriya Henry

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Senior setter Alayna Lacy, senior middle hitter senior Hannah Thibideau, senior outside hitter Jenna Lake, senior defensive specialist Natalie McMahel, middle hitter Kayleigh Gernand, outside hitter Olivia Shelton.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Sophomores Elliot Mays, Taylor Shelton, Maddie Towns, Alyvia Luce, Abby Dues, Lillian Stefan and Mattie Blanton.

• OUTLOOK: The Red Devils are deep with a mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen, prompting Briscoe to describe it as the deepest team he’s ever coached. That said, there’s a lot of quality volleyball teams in Southern Indiana and it could take some time to get the program at the level Briscoe hopes to be.

• BRISCOE SAYS: “On this varsity team at Jeff, with the exception of one or two players, I feel like anybody could take someone’s spot. Just because they had a great practice. It’s going to be good to see that once we get everyone eligible to play. It’s tough. You’ve got to bring it or you’ll get passed up.”

NEW ALBANY

• COACH: Ryan Woosley

• LAST SEASON: 16-19

• KEY LOSS: Kyla Weber

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Saylor Knoy, Bree Martin, Riley Winslow, Savannah Meyer, Olivia Allee, Lauren Naville, Sydney Byerly, Dani Grant, Haleigh Monks, Tess Owsley

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Olivia Allee, Alexis Caldwell, Blair Sprigler

• OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs return 10 varsity players from last season and look to progress from a solid campaign a year ago.

• WOOSLEY SAYS: “I really like how our team is coming together and committing to one another to be their best every single day.”

NEW WASHINGTON

• HEAD COACH: Michelle McCutcheon

• LAST SEASON: 18-13, 5-0 in the Southern Athletic Conference

• KEY LOSSES: Madison Fields, Hannah Hughes, Andrea Blackwell.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Senior Setter Audrey Eurton, senior outside hitter Kalin Campbell, senior opposite Lexie McCarty, sophomore libero Grace Ellison, junior outside hitter Katherine Greenwell, sophomore Megan Snelling.

• KEY NEWCOMER: Izzy Balderas.

• OUTLOOK: The Mustangs are coming off a strong season and suffered some key losses to graduation. But they’re off to a solid start, going 2-1 in the Southwestern Invitational to start the season with outside hitter Kalin Campbell, who had a team-best 227 kills last season, leading the way.

• MILLEN SAYS: “I expect them to compete at every match. They work very hard in practice and we have high expectations for them.”

PROVIDENCE

• HEAD COACH: Terri Purichia

• LAST SEASON: 33-3, reaching the Class 4A semistate championship game

• KEY LOSSES: Setter Lilly Bivens, middle hitter Hanna Mitchell, libero Madison Kruer, defensive specialist Grace Hublar, right-side hitter Haylee Hall.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Junior outside hitter Ali Hornung, senior outside hitter Courtney Glotzbach, senior libero Ceci Rush, senior middle hitter Maggie Purichia, junior outside hitter Anna Purichia and junior setter Emma Kaelin.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Junior outside hitter Lydia Rush, junior defensive specialist Miranda Harley, senior defensive specialist Brynna Walthers and freshman setter Grace Purichia.

• OUTLOOK: The Pioneers begin the season ranked No. 2 in Class 4A and Coach Purichia assures her players went to work to help make up for the loss of a talented senior class. In order to take the next step in the Class 4A state tournament, the Pioneers will need to progress throughout the season against a loaded schedule.

• PURICHIA SAYS: “The competition of our schedule is very tough, so being battle-tested early will hopefully pay dividends for us as the season progresses. We take nothing and no one for granted in playing in Class 4A, there are teams all over the place that are capable of handing us a loss if we don’t play our best. That is a lot of pressure for this team, and we keep working to get better at handling that pressure.”

ROCK CREEK

• HEAD COACH: Jennifer Brown

• LAST SEASON: 26-8, Class A sectional champions

• KEY LOSSES: Lauren Schmidt, Julia Anderson, Bri Ragland

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Junior outside hitter Ligia Williams, junior outside hitter Leah Thompson, senior setter Bailey Brown.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Morgan Schmidt, freshman outside hitter Josie Anderson, Lajoya Williams and sophomore defensive specialist Jenna Rogers.

• OUTLOOK: Rock Creek has beefed up its schedule to better prepare for postseason action. The Lions lost 3-0 to Barr-Reeve in regional play last year. Ligia Williams has continued to show improvement and is getting some Division I interest after being among the state’s leaders in kills last season with 289.

• BROWN SAYS: “Williams has gotten a lot better. She’s a lot more consistent. She hits the ball harder every time. She’s very strong and athletic. She’s a great blocker.”

SILVER CREEK

• HEAD COACH: Jeff Zimmerman

• LAST SEASON: 32-7

• KEY LOSSES: Alisha Harbold, Zoie Zimmerman, Mady Hawkins, Karli Ware, Kiersten Cooper and Sara Jones.

• KEY RETURNING VARSITY PLAYERS: Senior setter Macie Garrison, junior opposite Bella Hinton, senior middle hitter Katie Hawkins, senior middle hitter Abby Tandy, junior defensive specialist Mallory Ramsey.

• KEY NEWCOMERS: Emily Weber, Faith Weitzel, Reagan Wickens, Lexi Streigel, Katie Henry, Abby Marks, Anna Dablow

• OUTLOOK: The Dragons certainly lost some firepower from the 2018 team but all-state senior setter Macie Garrison and junior Bella Hinton, who had 232 kills as a sophomore, provide an excellent base to build upon and sustain success.

• ZIMMERMAN SAYS: “With five seniors we expect the leadership to be very good and look forward to growing as a team throughout the season.”

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