Portage County volleyball previews

Garfield varsity volleyball took 3 games of 4 against Rootstown. Shelbie Krieger and Allison Strickland, Rootstown.
Garfield varsity volleyball took 3 games of 4 against Rootstown. Shelbie Krieger and Allison Strickland, Rootstown.

We invited all 12 Portage County volleyball coaches to tell us about their teams.

Here are preview capsules for all 12 (with all quotes coming from that team's head coach):

Aurora Greenmen

Head Coach: Tyler Price (7th season)

Assistant Coaches: Miguel Ramirez, Sharri Durdel, Rachele Kelly, Sarah Willis

2021 Record: 17-8 (10-4 Suburban American)

Returning Letterwinners (6): seniors Sophia "Mia" Devine, Ally DeSapri; juniors Brooke Gecina, Ollie Salgado, Ava McGovern, Cailor Roche

Letterwinners Lost (6): Brooke Fishback, Lauren VonderHaar, Maria Parks, Jordan Miller, Alayna Fromwiller, Brenna Baker

Outlook: The Greenmen graduated a number of longstanding stalwarts from last year's 17-win squad, including star setter Brooke Fishback, stellar libero Maria Parks and leading hitter Lauren VonderHaar. Stepping into a bigger role this season, Mia Devine, a four-year letterwinner who tallied 127 kills last season, will be "demanding a lot of respect at all times in the front row," while Brooke Gecina (120) also has "extensive varsity experience" along with "one of the hardest hits that I have ever seen." Ollie Salgado, who transitioned to defensive specialist last season with Fishback at setter, is "returning to her natural position" as "our main setter," while Ally DeSapri will replace Parks at libero. Aurora has two more letterwinners in the Class of 2024, Ava McGovern and Cailor Roche, as well as three junior hitters in Amanda Chmielewski, Miranda Fontanella and Maddie Shanholtzer, who "all can play multiple front row positions." Sophomore Lana Whitmer and freshman Emerson Spiesz are defensive specialists who also boast setting experience.

Crestwood Red Devils

Head Coach: Wanda Hoffman (30th season)

Assistant Coaches: Lauren Painley (JV), Jade Bretz (freshman), Lilly Hoffman (varsity volunteer)

2021 Record: 9-15 (4-6 CVC)

Returning Letterwinners (3): seniors Aimee Barnauskas, Avrie Schenkel; junior Jazmyn (Jaz) Stevens

Letterwinners Lost (7): Mikayla Berquist, Jynx Bretz, Madison Dombrowski, EmilyJo Jaeger, Gianna Kalista, Kelsey Kulish, Mackenzie Langford

Outlook: Aimee Barnauskas is coming off a stellar season in which she earned first team all-league and all-district honors after leading the Red Devils in kills (224), aces (28) and blocks (48), while also finishing second in digs (150). Now a senior, Barnauskas will need to "help the younger players to work together to be successful." A setter for the past two seasons, junior Jaz Stevens (210 assists) will also take on an even bigger role with the graduation of fellow setter Kelsey Kulish (225 assists). Senior Avrie Shenkel returns at outside hitter, while Crestwood's third senior, Elaine Guyette, has stood out for her work ethic and "leads by example."

Field Falcons

Head Coach: Beth Dyer (6th season)

Assistant Coach: Dan Battaglia

2021 Record: 8-15 (3-11 Metro Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (6): Megan Schmidt, Bailey Evans, Logan Scalia, Taylor Francis, Kayleigh Tingler, Anna Harlin

Letterwinners Lost (6): Delaney Richmond, Carlee Chambers, Ella Livengood, Alli Morris, Alyssa Schaber, Leah Snyder

Outlook: The Falcons "have a lot of strong hitting," headlined by senior Taylor Francis, who "has been an all-around varsity player since freshman year," and Megan Schmidt, who missed her entire junior season with a knee injury and will be a "big middle hitter for us and is a leader on and off the court." Field will also "rely heavily on" juniors McKenzie Herndon and Ava Sheeler, while senior Anna Harlin will "take over as a senior setter and we're excited to see her rise to that challenge." As long as the "back row defense does their job and gets them the pass," the Falcons should have the hitters necessary "to put the ball down hard."

Garfield G-Men

Head Coach: Ali Roach (4th season)

Assistant Coach: Becky VanKirk

2021 Record: 20-5 (12-2 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (6): Madeline Shirkey, Gabby Barnard, Hannah Warren, Montana McGranahan, Addisyn Miller, Hannah Kernig

Letterwinners Lost (3): Caydence McGranahan, Jenna Smith, Jordan Perme

Outlook: The G-Men return a lot of talent from last year's 20-win squad, led by seniors Gabby Barnard and Madeline Shirkey. Barnard, a "power outside hitter who also plays back row," led last year's team in kills (279) and digs (227). Shirkey, a starting varsity setter since her freshman year, compiled an astounding 603 assists last season and also led the G-Men in aces with 71. Junior Montana McGranahan, a "very strong hitter and player," will join Barnard as another outside hitter who plays all the way around. Sophomore Hannah Kernig brings "an amazing vertical and speed" to the middle hitter position. Senior Hannah Warren "plays a lot of front row" but is also "a great server and back row player." Sophomore Kyla Grace is "fighting for the Libero spot," as she brings a "feisty energy and goes 100 percent," while freshman Mandy Cardinal is "very athletic" and "has a ton of potential."

Mogadore Wildcats

Outlook: The Wildcats went from one win in 2020 to 10 in 2021, and after losing a single letterwinner, there's a feeling that the "sky's the limit this year," especially after they were "extremely competitive" in their scrimmages. Mogadore will feature a "very athletic and scrappy back row this season" that includes juniors Brooklyn McIntyre, Kenzington Miller and Katy Mitchell. "Fast and fearless" freshman Alana Whitmore will add a further boost to the Wildcats' defense as the team's new Libero, while middle hitters Sophia Moledor, a junior, and Addi Gerring, a sophomore, "are leading our blocking game." Expect senior hitter Ashlyn Peterhoff and senior setter Zoey Ruppel to help lead the Mogadore attack. Also watch for juniors Kendall Barcus (setter), Hennessy Brake (OH), Kendall Barcus (setter) and Katy Mitchell (DS); sophomores Addie Christy (RH), Gracie Funk (DS), Haylie Stuart (setter) and Jordin Twiddy (RH); and freshman Alivia Beddell (MH).

Head Coach: Andrea Ball (1st season)

Assistant Coach: Gabby Heminger

2021 Record: 10-10 (5-5 Portage Trail Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (NA): Information not available

Letterwinners Lost (1): Kayla Wilson

Ravenna Ravens

Head Coach: Sara Haldi (5th season)

Assistant Coaches: N/A

2021 Record: 0-22 (0-14 Metro Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (7): Riley Summers, Kyla Carney, Tara Ransom, Abigail Schofield, Lillian Schofield, Zoey Kitts, Lilly Kuchenbecker

Letterwinners Lost (8): Anna Jones, Jasmyne Montgomery, Alyssa Orona, Makenzi Thompson, Kylee Cross, Lauren Stewart, Taneyah Willis, Chien-Yi “Cecilia” Wu

Outlook: The Ravens graduated a big senior class, but return their three leaders in assists from a season ago: junior Riley Summers (63), sophomore Lilly Schofield (34) and sophomore Lilly Kuchenbecker (22). Indeed, all of Ravenna's setters "have been setting for the team for the past few seasons." The Ravens also return their leader in digs from last season: senior Kyla Carney (138). Tara Ransom is another returner to watch, having finished third on the team with 26 kills last season. All told, Ravenna's "starters have played the past few seasons together allowing for stronger teamwork and knowledge of each other's strengths on the court."

Roosevelt Rough Riders

Head Coach: Sean Burns (6th season, 2nd at Roosevelt)

Assistant Coaches: John Cooper, Anaya Croston, Gianna Schiavi

2021 Record: 6-17 (4-10 Suburban American)

Returning Letterwinners (7): Taylor Dunlap, Samantha Gallagher, Siiri Valesky, Olivia Sams, Emmy Derry, Norah Redfern, Delaney Jones

Letterwinners Lost (3): Megan Moser, Claire Fried, Samantha Baron

Outlook: The Rough Riders' hitting and blocking are expected to take "massive steps forward with all of our hitters/blockers returning." Roosevelt's returners include the team's 2021 leader in kills (Taylor Dunlap with 102), aces (Olivia Sams with 31), blocks (Siiri Valesky with 52) and assists (Delaney Jones with 168). Indeed, the Rough Riders return their top two setters (Jones and Sams accounted for 330 of the team's 359 assists last season) and top five hitters (including Emily Derry who finished third on the team with 66 kills as a sophomore and Norah Redfern who finished fifth with 49 as a freshman).

Rootstown Rovers

Head Coach: Cassie Braden (6th season)

Assistant Coach: Vicki Just

2021 Record: 15-7 (9-1 Portage Trail Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (9): Lindsay Smith, Marina Nichols, Taylor Banks, Shelbie Krieger, Zoe Pastva, Boston Silveus, Nadia Lough, Allison Strickland, Kayden Slagle

Letterwinners Lost (5): Delta Nichols, Jenna Kurtz, Autumn Stefancik, Cameron Kuharich, Kylie Kaut

Outlook: The 2021 Portage Trail Conference champion Rovers graduated a sizable Class of 2022, including two-time PTC Player of the Year Jenna Kurtz, but are loaded with young talent. That includes sophomore setter Allison Strickland, who impressed with 417 assists as a freshman and who "brings a great leadership to the team." Similarly, Nadia Lough impressed with 94 kills as a freshman (second on Rootstown), and is a "great hitter from any position." Also expect senior Lindsay Smith, junior Boston Silveus and sophomore Shelbie Krieger to play a key role in the Rovers' attack. On defense, where the Rovers graduated their three leaders in digs last season (Kylie Kaut, Cameron Kuharich and Kurtz), Zoe Pastva, who had 84 digs last year, is a potential Libero given she "is a natural athlete who is also a very quick defensive player" while Marina Nichols will also be "a big part of our defense." Expect Taylor Banks to step in as a second setter as she boasts "great hands and is a great leader on the team."

Southeast Pirates

Head Coach: Mary Tarka (48th season)

Assistant Coach: Meredith Wooley

2021 Record: 3-20 (0-10 Portage Trail Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (6): Norah Truex, Morgan Meadows, Emma Janok, Tori Healy, Kayla Grope, Kylie Bailey

Lost Letterwinners (3): Reagan Pettigrew, Makenzie Dillon, Lyndsey Pennington

Outlook: The Pirates lost their leading hitter from last season in Reagan Pettigrew, who had a team-high 116 kills last season, but return a strong pair of middle hitters in Kayla Grope (36 kills) and Norah Truex (99 kills, 61 digs). Southeast also returns a number of experienced defenders, including Kylie Bailey, who led last year's team with 150 digs, Morgan Meadows (108) and Tori Healy (89).

Streetsboro Rockets

Head Coach: Chera Jansen (1st season)

Assistant Coaches: Jessica Nuber (varsity assistant), Justine States (JV), Shalom Stevens (JV assistant)

2021 Record: 10-8 (7-7 Metro Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (4): Shemayah Stevens, Karla Swallow, Claire Mitchell, Lacy Campbell

Letterwinners Lost (7): Kristen Morgan, Mallory Rice, Kennedy Danna, Jessica Smith, Raelyn States, Noor Chima, Katie Swallow

Outlook: The Rockets graduated a massive senior class, including last year's top five in kills (Noor Chima, Katie Swallow, Jessica Smith, Raelyn States and Kennedy Danna), top four in aces (Danna, Swallow, Chima and States), top three in digs (Rice, Swallow, Danna) and leader in assists (Danna). Sophomore "rock star" Shemayah Stevens will take over for Danna at setter, after tallying 30 assists and 18 aces as a promising freshman. Karla Swallow, who finished fourth on the team with 113 digs in 2021, will join fellow senior Maisey Gauntner in leading the Streetsboro back line. The Rockets' top hitters include Lacy Campbell, Maddy Hajec, Ryenne Hubbard, Danielle LaFlame, Miaya Taylor and Emma Zsiros, who had a strong freshman season for St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2021. Also watch for Streetsboro senior Claire Mitchell.

Waterloo Vikings

Head Coach: Aleck Franks (2nd season)

Assistant Coach: Aleena Samblanet

2021 Record: 0-22 (0-14 Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (7): Sophia Gonzales, Cameron Bentley, Miranda Long, Taryn Brown, Isabella Kozma, Arianna Rebecchi, Lexi Eddy

Letterwinners Lost (1): Jennifer Cieplinski

Outlook: The Vikings are out for revenge following a winless 2021 and return plenty of experience after graduating a single letterwinner. Junior Miranda Long is "becoming very vocal this year and guiding the girls on the court based on her role as our setter." Long also is expected to "get opportunities to swing in the front row." Sophomore Arianna Rebecchi is "moving very well on the court right now for us, always keeping her feet moving whether it is offense or defense." Rebecchi has stood out for her court vision and "is just overall smart with the ball on her contacts." Fellow sophomore Isabella Kozma is "becoming a powerhouse for us out of the middle," as the Vikings are "trying to get our middles much more involved this year."

Windham Bombers 

Head Coach: Lauren Gintert (7th season)

Assistant Coach: Jessica Horning

2021 Record: 10-10 (10-7 Northeastern Athletic Conference)

Returning Letterwinners (5): Julia Jones, Za’Nya Henderson, Briah Daniel, Ka’Neese Jones, Quinn Justham

Letterwinners Lost (3): Zahra Cunningham, Zoey St John, Hannah Murton

Outlook: Coming off a .500 campaign, the Bombers return "a good group of kids with great chemistry." Sophomore Quinn Justham is back at setter after leading Windham with 209 assists (and 189 service points) as a freshman. Senior Za'Nya Henderson, who had 206 digs last year, will take over at Libero. The Bombers also have a number of experienced hitters, with senior Julia Jones leading the way on the outside after tallying 120 kills and a team-leading 77 aces in 2021, and junior Briah Daniel taking over the starting middle hitter position after she recorded 91 kills and 32 blocks last season. Also watch for junior hitter Ka’Neese Jones.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Portage County volleyball previews