It’s no secret who everyone in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference will be chasing on the volleyball court.
The Lady Devils have won 63 straight games in the conference and four straight sectionals.
Area teams Manchester, Ripley, West Union, Eastern and Peebles will all get their chance to put the streak to an end while Georgetown looks to build off a three-win season in the Southern Buckeye Conference.
Here’s a look at the area volleyball teams as the season approaches on Saturday:
The Lady Hounds will have to deal with the loss of five seniors from a team that finished 2-10 in the SHAC from a season ago.
They will however get back Abigail McFarland, who missed most of last season with an injury.
“She’s one of the best all-around players on our team. She has a lot of potential,” Lady Hounds coach Kaci Compton said.
McFarland will play outside hitter and teams up on the front line with sophomore Brooke Kennedy.
“She’s an outstanding athlete and will have more strength and confidence this year,” Compton said.
With the five seniors gone, five seniors will help fill the void of the experience lost, including captains McFarland and Aaliyah Smith. The rest of the rotation will be one Compton looks forward to entering the season.
“We are going to try a few different rotations at the beginning of the season, since we have such flexible and all-around good players, it will be goof to see where each athlete fits best,” Compton said.
The second-year coach noted they’re looking forward to games within the Conference and expects a better record in conference play. Rounding out the roster will be Mackenzie Leadingham, Alexis Foster, Melanie Thatcher, Madison Jones, Kylie Abbott, Hannah Bundy, Braxlynn McClanahan, Madison Young and Macy Huron.
Manchester opens the season Saturday with a tri-match against Georgetown and Lynchburg-Clay.
Volleyball is back in West Union.
The Lady Dragons will have three seniors on the team this year to help rebuild, after not putting a varsity team on the floor in the 2017 season.
“We will have three seniors on the court and I’m really looking for them to lead this team with their experience, as the remaining of their teammates mostly consist of freshmen,” said West Union coach Kristin Regenstein in an email to The Ledger Independent.
Regenstein will rely on those three to try to lay a foundation for the future in the SHAC, which has been dominated by county rival North Adams in recent years.
“Our main goal this season is to really put down a solid foundation for the volleyball program at West Union. We are starting over with not having a team on the floor last year,” said Regenstein. “I think if the girls play together as a unit, we will have a competitive team on the court.”
The Lady Dragons’ coach believes the key to doing that will be focusing as a team, instead of focusing on the difference in grade level between the players this season.
West Union is scheduled to open the season on Tuesday against Portsmouth West, before jumping into league play two days later in Manchester.
The Lady Jays have struggled to find wins the last few years, but look for improvement under new head coach Shelby Schelling.
Ripley went 0-11 in the SHAC last season, but did pick up a victory against St. Patrick, 3-1 (25-18, 25-15, 23-25, 25-15), when the Lady Saints made the trip across the Ohio River on Sept. 20. The two teams are scheduled to meet up again in Maysville on Oct. 6.
Schelling served as an assistant last season on a team that featured five seniors. They had several underclassmen stepping up into big roles, like then-junior Haylee King, as well as Savanna Proffitt and Tori Lewis as sophomores.
The Lady Jays are scheduled to open the season and conference play on Aug. 23 against Lynchburg-Clay.
The Lady Warriors lost three all-SHAC players to graduation, finishing 9-2 in the SHAC and look to reload with a younger team.
SHAC Coach of the Year Kayla Gauche returns and looks forward to seniors Sydni King (libero) and Mia Rockey (middle hitter) leading the way. Those two should mix in well with underclassmen Allison Daniels (setter) and #5 Taylor Dotson (outside hitter).
”I expect our team to do very well in the league this year. We are shooting for a winning year and to go far in the tournaments. The league will be tough this year and there will be a lot of great games to watch,” Gauche said.
Some matches Gauche noted they are looking forward to are with North Adams, Peebles, Fairfield and Fayetteville-Perry.
Rounding out the roster is Evelyn Fultz, Ashlee Minnix, Hailey Hampton, Megan Baker, Kelsey Smallwood, Bri Klicker, Izzy Barber and Hannah Clark.
The Lady Warriors open the season with Fairfield on Monday.
The Lady G-Men will look to improve on a three-win 2017 season with new head coach Seth Carkeek.
Georgetown posted a 12-12 record during the 2016 season, but struggled to find victories early last year, dropping 15 of their first 16 matches. They beat Wilmington on Aug. 23, 3-1.
The Lady G-Men did pick up two more victories once October rolled around. They beat Bethel-Tate on Oct. 3, 3-2, and Felicity-Franklin on Oct. 10, 3-2.
Georgetown is scheduled to open the season at home on Saturday with matches against Manchester and Lynchburg-Clay. They’ll also travel to Batavia and Wilmington, before hosting Whiteoak on Aug. 27 in a final non-conference tune up.
The Lady G-Men are scheduled to open league play at Blanchester on Aug. 28 at 5 p.m.
Attempts to reach out to Lady Indians coach Rachel Sims were unsuccessful. The Lady Indians went 10-2 in the SHAC last year and reached the sectional semifinals before losing to Western Latham.
Peebles’ posted a 16-7 record in ‘17 and seem to have a lot of talent coming up from a JV team that went 22-0. They’ll have to look at replacing two seniors in Josie Myers and All-SHAC player Baylee Justice. They do return two All-SHAC player in Madison Pierce and Kylie Sims.