By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The high school volleyball preview for the 2023 season:
Head Coach: Katie Cicione, 1st year.
Coaching Staff: Emma Strobel, Madison Wade.
2022 Record: 15-9.
Returning Letterwinners (8): Amanda Chmielewski, sr.; Brooke Gecina, sr.; Ava McGovern, sr.; Cailor Roche, sr.; Ollie Salgado, sr.; Madeline Shanholtzer, sr.; Lana Witmer, jr.; Emerson Spiesz, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (2): Mia DeVine, Ally DeSapri.
General Outlook: Aurora returns a significant amount of experience.
“We have the depth needed to excel in pressure situations, allowing us to remain composed and confident on the court,” Cicione said. “Our offensive lineup boasts a group of versatile and skilled hitters, ensuring a dynamic and effective attack.”
Cicione said she anticipates that the team’s overall strength will be its cohesiveness.
“We share the same vision and work together seamlessly to achieve our goals. This combination of experience, skill and unity sets us up for a successful and promising season.”
Outside Hitters: Amanda Chmielewski is a “cool, calm and collected” player, according to Cicione.
“She has the ability to make a well, thought out decision to better the ball and she leads by example, which makes her presence a source of inspiration for the program.”
Brooke Gecina is described as a “coach’s dream athlete” by Cicione.
“She is extremely versatile and moves with such a high volleyball IQ. She is a relentless warrior.”
Cailor Roche brings a relentless work ethic, while Madeline Shanholtzer is a well-rounded player that can do many things.
Additionally, Dyer said that Logan Nichols, who got some varsity experience last season, will be an additional hitter and blocker and described her as a “very consistent player.”
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Ava McGovern and McKennah Metzger spotlight this position.
“Ava exudes magnetic energy that I think inspires the program to feel comfortable and want to thrive. She is very dynamic and explosive.
“McKenna embodies the essence of humility, despite her remarkable talent and achievements.”
Setters: Ollie Salgado returns after earning All-Ohio status last season.
“She has an amazing ability to problem solve and be forward thinking.”
Defensive Specialists: Emerson Spiesz has the ability to read the game very quickly, adapting to situations.
“She is always one step ahead, making crucial plays when it counts the most.”
Lana Witmer is another standout at the position, with great ball control.
Freshman Dylan Tschudy is also in the mix.
Head Coach: Wanda Hoffman, 31st year, 485-234 career record.
Coaching Staff: Lauren Painley, Jade Bretz.
2022 Record: 11-13.
Returning Letterwinners (6): Zoe Babnik, sr.; Jaz Stevens, sr.; Maddie Dustman, jr.; Audrey Fusci, jr.; Abby Guyette, jr.; Hannah Ward, jr.
Letterwinners Lost (3): Aimee Barnauskas, Elaine Guyette, Avrie Shankel.
General Outlook: “We are looking good, and they are working hard and together,” Hoffman said. “As their confidence and chemistry improves, they will become more successful.”
Outside Hitter: Senior Roxxy Bretz is a force at either outside positions.
“She is a very hard worker and very strong.”
Kayleigh Helm is a smart player that sees the floor well.
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Maddie Dustman’s quickness allows her to read the court well.
“Maddie will swing from the middle, but can hit from anywhere.”
Hannah Ward is another contributor.
“She has an amazing reach and long arms to help make a wall.”
Setters: Jaz Stevens returns for her third season on varsity and will be one of the team’s best all-around players.
“She has a strong love of the game and will help lead the team.”
Abby Guyette will be another setter, along with Mia Kalista.
“Abby will be playing all around and is a nice blocker in the middle. Mia is the type of player that can step in and play any position on our team. I feel confident that she will be an incredible addition to our team.”
Libero: Babnik returns as the team’s top libero.
“She reads the ball very well and has pride in her role.”
Audrey Fusci will also see time here.
“She has confidence and a leader’s voice in the back row.”
Defensive Specialists: Kaitlyn Huffman leads here with determination.
“She is all about the team and making this year a special one.”
Head Coach: Beth Dyer, 7th year, 44-68 career record.
Coaching Staff: Dan Battaglia.
2022 Record: 5-14.
Returning Letterwinners (6): Mackenzie Herndon, sr.; Taylor Ober, sr.; Ava Sheeler, sr.; Ireland Totaro, sr.; Olivia Dyer, jr.; Madyson Stelzer, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (5): Taylor Francis, Megan Schmidt, Bailey Evans, Logan Scalia, Anna Harlin.
General Outlook: “We have seniors with experience, but also a lot of youth,” Dyer said. “The underclassmen have worked hard in the off-season to improve and challenge for a varsity spot.”
Outside Hitter: A number of players will get time on the outside, including Mackenzie Herndon, Ava Sheeler, Mady Stelzer, Mollie Matthews, Zoe Evans and Emma Lerch.
“Mackenzie is a great player with knowledge, experience, confidence and game awareness. Ava is a consistent player with athleticism and experience. Mady has shown a lot of growth from last year and is a hard worker.
“Mollie is willing to learn and work, and she moves well on the court. Zoe does a great job blocking on the right side and Emma is able to play multiple positions.”
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Now in her third season on varsity, Herndon will also be a dominant player in the middle.
Sophomore Kash McClendon will contribute, along with Stelzer.
“Kash has a lot of raw talent and is a quick learner. Mady has game awareness and a lot of skills that she will be able to showcase as the middle hitter.”
Setter: Olivia Dyer returns to her starting role, with more confidence and growth from gaining experience last season.
Addy Lay, who was the junior varsity setter last year, brings great athleticism, while transfer Kaelyn Masturzo will also get time.
Defensive Specialist: Taylor Ober, Ireland Totaro and Chloe Miller will be the team’s main defensive specialists.
“All three have the ability to pass and cover the back row.”
Head Coach: Ali Roach, 6th year, 58-28 career record.
Coaching Staff: Becky VanKirk.
2022 Record: 19-6.
Returning Letterwinners (7): Montana McGranahan, sr.; Addison Miller, sr.; Hannah Kernig, jr.; Kyla Grace, jr.; Mandy Cardinal, soph.; Reese Shirkey, soph.; Lily Shay, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (3): Madeline Shirkey, Gabby Barnard, Hannah Warren.
General Outlook: “We have some young players, but also veterans that can, hopefully, take charge and lead on the court.”
Outside Hitters: Montana McGranahan returns for her third season on varsity.
“She is a smart player and very competitive,” Roach said.
Kyla Grace was the team’s Libero last season, but will make the move to outside hitter for some matches this year.
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Mandy Cardinal and Hannah Kernig are both returning.
“Mandy has height and creates a wall against other teams. Hannah doesn’t have Mandy’s height, but does make up for it with her 23-inch vertical.”
Setters: Reese Shirkey has stepped into a starting role.
“As a sophomore, she is young, but has put time in during the off-season to help prepare her for this year.”
Defensive Specialists: Lily Shay, Addison Miller, Gabe Groves, Grace and McGranahan will all be strong defensively.
Head Coach: Sean Burns, 10th year (3rd at Kent Roosevelt), 78-65 career record.
Coaching Staff: Abby Paskert, Giana Schiavi, Anaya Croston.
2022 Record: 7-16.
Returning Letterwinners (8): Emmy Derry, sr.; Delaney Jones, sr.; Allison Gabelman, sr.; Madelyn VanDamme, sr.; Norah Redfern, jr.; Camryn McLoughlin, soph.; Lainey Shuck, soph.; Claire VanDamme, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (5): Taylor Dunlap, Siri Valesky, Olivia Sams, Samantha Gallagher, Kasie Crabtree.
General Outlook: “We are a really young team, with some added responsibilities on our sophomores as they look to replace the seniors we graduated last year,” Burns said. “We are looking to our new captains, Emmy Derry and Norah Redferm, to bring this team together and lead them.”
Burns feels his team will have some lineup flexibility, being able to field four six-rotation pin hitters.
Outside Hitters: Redfern has “grown immensely” over the past two seasons, according to Burns.
“We look for her to be able to terminate the ball in all areas of the court as our go-to hitter. She has also spent a lot of time in the off-season working on her defensive abilities to become a solid six-rotation player to help when she is unable to contribute on offense.”
Camryn McLoughlin and Lainey Shuck, along with Jorja Crabtree, will all also see time on the outside.
“Camryn stepped into a huge role last year on the rightside. Rightsides have the extremely important job of setting up the block to shut down the other teams’ pin hitters and in our conference, that is a huge ask of a freshman. She rose to the occasion, not only as a blocker, but as a contributing member of our offense.”
Shuck stepped into a varsity role last year as a freshman to help cover an injury to Olivia Same.
“She continuously grew throughout the season, and we look forward to seeing her contribute full time.”
Crabtree joins the varsity team from a nice JV season a year ago.
Middle Hitters: Allison Gabelman is a returning starter.
“We look for her to take another step forward as an offensive leader, with her high volleyball IQ.”
Claire VanDamme was a JV hitter last year, but also filled in on the rightside at times.
“With her jump to a solid role on the team out of the middle, she is a great weapon to hit from anywhere in the front row. She adds a lot of height and speed to our block in the front row to help set up our first line of defense.”
Setters: Delaney Jones has spent the last two seasons taking “massive strides forward,” according to Burns.
“With many young hitters on our team this year, there is going to be a huge ask of her to help develop them. We know she can put our offense in a position to win.”
Madelyn VanDamme was new to the program last year, but worked hard to find her rhythm.
Another first-year player, Virginia Catalucci, has worked hard in the off-season to be ready to fill in when needed.
Defensive Specialists: Emmy Derry returns and will be a four-year letterwinner.
“We are looking for Emmy to step into the Libero role. Her defensive prowess and knowledge of the game have grown over the years and is geared to become a defensive stalwart for us.”
Mikayla Johnson has continued to improve over the last two seasons on JV and fought hard to earn her varsity spot.
“We are excited to see her potential at the highest level in our fast-paced conference.”
Head Coach: Andrea Ball, 2nd year, 15-9 career record.
Coaching Staff: Gabby Heminger, Kendra Miller-Rett.
2022 Record: 15-9.
Returning Letterwinners (10): Sophia Moledor, sr.; Kenzington Miller, sr.; Kendall Barcus, sr.; Hennessy Brake, sr.; Gracie Funk, jr.; Haylie Stuart, jr.; Addi Gerring, jr.; Addie Christy, jr.; Jordin Twiddy, jr.; Alana Whitmore, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (5): Zoey Ruppel, Ashlyn Peterhoff, Brooklyn McIntyre, Alivia Beddell, Katy Mitchell.
General Outlook: “We have a very solid serving team and our setting is consistent,” Ball said. “Our level of hitting and blocking has improved tremendously from last season. Our back row of passers are extremely scrappy.
“The girls communicate well and trust each other.”
Outside Hitters: Hennessy Brake and Addi Gerring will lead the team from the outside.
Middle Hitters: Sophia Molder and Addie Christy.
Setters: Kendall Barcus, Haylie Stuart.
Libero: Kenzington Miller.
Defensive Specialists: Gracie Funk, Alana Whitmore.
Head Coach: Cassie Braden, 10th year.
Coaching Staff: Victoria Just, Dana Tingler.
2022 Record: 13-9.
Returning Letterwinners (8): Shelbie Krieger, sr.; Boston Silveus, sr.; Taylor Banks, sr.; Brooklynn McIntyre, sr.; Zoe Pastva, sr.; Nadia Lough, jr.; Allison Strickland, jr.; Addie Biggin, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (6): Lindsay Smith, Marina Nichols, Jordan Ely, Lauren Barnes, Shianne Stefancik, Jessica Hahn.
General Outlook: “We still have very seasoned players, even though we lost six seniors,” Braden said. “We are adding a lot of younger talent, especially with our sophomore group.
“We have large numbers in our program and have added a true freshman squad this fall. I really think this depth allows us to build a strong program for the future.”
Outside Hitters: Nadia Lough is a veteran, having played the position since her freshman season.
“She is a powerful hitter, and she is always willing to make herself better.”
Boston Silveus brings “great senior leadership,” according to Braden.
“She has put a lot of work in during the off-season and will be one of our go-to offensive threats at the net.”
Brooklynn McIntyre is dangerous at the net in multiple ways, including a great off-speed hit that is tough to block.
“She is great at hitting anything that comes her way and turning it into a score.”
Allison Strickland is one of the team’s main setters, but will also be able to move to the outside.
“She has really improved her offensive game, with a very powerful hit.”
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Shelbie Krieger returns as the team’s main middle hitter.
“She is a really talented blocker with her height, and I believe she will be a tough force to block in the middle.”
Colbie Curall joins the volleyball team after playing soccer as a freshman.
“She is a natural athlete, who also blocks very well.”
Setters: Taylor Banks and Strickland, who has been in the role since her freshman season, will lead this position.
“Taylor really stepped up last year, and she brings great leadership to the floor and is key to our offense.
“Allison has great experience and great hands. She works really well with our hitters.”
Libero: Zoe Pastva emerged at the position last year.
“She has a great, consistent pass and covers really well on defense.”
Defensive Specialists: Addie Biggin may also see some time as Libero.
“She lettered as a freshman last year and is a very talented all-around player.”
Head Coach: Mary Tarka, 49th year, 745 career wins.
Coaching Staff: Meredith Wooley, Kendall Werschey.
2022 Record: 6-17.
Returning Letterwinners (7): Kylee Bailey, sr.; Norah Truex, sr.; Skylar Werschey, sr.; Lainey West, sr.; Jalynn Witchey, sr.; Tori Healy, sr.; Alex Hrkach, jr.; Lilly Massrock, jr.
Letterwinners Lost (4): Morgan Meadows, Emma Janos, Mackenzie Foor, Hope Hughes.
General Outlook: “We hope to compete well,” Tarka said. “Our serving should be strong and the young ladies work well together.”
Outside Hitters: Kylee Bailey highlights the group with her “good vertical,” according to Tarka.
She returns to the team after playing the position last year.
Savannah Bailey, Kylee’s cousin,” is new to varsity, but will also see time here.
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Norah Truex was named First Team All-Portage Trail Conference last year.
Freshmen Izzy Schuller and Leila Evans will also get time.
Setters: Skylar Werschey returns to the court after missing her junior season because of a knee injury. She lettered as a sophomore.
Lilly Massrock stepped in a year ago to be the team’s primary setter and will get time here again.
Libero: Tori Healy and Alex Hrkach will fill in as the team leaders after making nice contributions last season.
Head Coach: Aleck Franks, 3rd year, 5-40 career record.
Coaching Staff: Megan Coley, Kyleigh Eddy.
2022 Record: 5-17.
Returning Letterwinners (8): Taryn Brown, sr.; Miranda Long, sr.; Alayna Holmes, sr.; Arianna Rebecchi, jr.; Isabella Kozma, jr.; Alexis Eddy, jr.; Brilyn Eddy, soph.; Delaney Miller, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (2): Sophia Gonzales, Cameron Bentley.
General Outlook: “We have a solid group of returners from last season, along with gaining several skilled players coming in,” Franks said.
Outside Hitters: The trio of Arianna Rebecchi, Taryn Brown and Delaney Miller will lead the position.
“Arianna is smart on the court and reads the defense very well. Taryn is very encouraging to her younger teammates and Delaney is not afraid to make mistakes and is a very strong leader.”
Middle Blocker: Isabella Kozma and Kristlyn Keher anchor the middle.
“Isabella has sped up her game greatly from last season and is gaining more confidence every day. Kristlyn is quickly adjusting.”
Setters: Miranda Long has improved her game quickly and is a strong leader, while Brilyn Eddy communicates well and plays the best ball possible to her hitters.
Defensive Specialists: Alexis Eddy and Alayna Holmes will be the starters.
“Alexis talks very Mellon the court and Alayna’s serve receiving is becoming very clean, while her serve is strong.”
Head Coach: Lauryn Gintert, 8th year, 55-90 career record.
Coaching Staff: Mike Chaffee.
2022 Record: 8-15.
Returning Letterwinners (5): Briah Daniel, sr.; Ka’Neese Jones, sr.; Quinn Justham, jr.; Angelina Jones, sr.; Sydnie Sweet, soph.
Letterwinners Lost (2): Julia Jones, Za’Nya Henderson.
General Outlook: “This year’s team will have big holes to fill with the loss of Liberty Za’Nya Henderson,” Gintert said. “This is a good group of kids, with good chemistry. We will have a strong middle and some great serving to help push us forward. Overall, it should be a nice season.”
Outside Hitters: Ka’Neese Cunningham leads the team on the outside. Last year, she finished the year with 47 aces and 155 kills.
Middle Blocker/Hitter: Briah Daniel returns as the team leader after a junior season that included 158 kills and a league-leading 119 blocks.
“She is a natural athlete, who is always hungry for more. If she advances in volleyball, from year to year, the way she did with shot put this past season in track, she will be the ace in our deck.”
Angelina Jones returns to the program. She lettered as a freshman, but did not play the last two seasons.
“She has a natural sense of leadership and passion for the game. She is someone to look out for.”
Setters: Quinn Justham is back for her third season with the Bombers.
She had 325 assists last year and enters 2023 with 534 for her career.
“Her leadership and grit will be just what this team needs to have an excellent season.”
Where’s Ravenna? Why do our kids get left out so often here?