The local high school volleyball scene will have a fresh look this season, as many of last year’s strongest teams have plenty of new faces after losing players to graduation. While several perennial contenders seem likely to continue to be a force in the postseason, there are several opportunities for other teams to make their mark.
Here are five things to watch during the 2018 volleyball season.
Zionsville enters new era
The Eagles are coming off a season where they lost just three matches, falling in regionals to Yorktown. But this season might look different, as Zionsville graduated nine seniors.
“Early on, there’s going to be some growing pains for us and some of the younger teams in the area,” coach Rich Coleman said. “Teams that are senior-laden or teams that have been together for a while will probably be off to a fast start, while teams like us that are trying to grow and shape and mold are still trying to figure some stuff out.”
The team has a trio of experienced players in Butler commit Megan Sheridan, Akron commit Lauren Latka and Boston College commit Anna Murphy. Coleman expects all three of them to fill big roles.
“The girls understand the challenge,” he said. “Those three are the leaders that we’ll expect to help the younger group.”
Young Wildcats hoping to hit stride at right time
Coming off its first sectional title since 1979, Lawrence North is looking to take another step forward this season. However, after graduating seven seniors in each of the past two years, this will be the least experienced group of coach Nick Cox’s tenure.
The team graduated its two players who led in kills last season, as well as its assists leader, digs leader and five leading blockers.
However, expectations remain high for a program that has made significant strides each of the past few years.
“We’re at a point, because of the success we’ve had over the last six years, where our expectations are higher,” Cox said. “It’s not so much starting over as much as trying to build on previous success.”
The team faces several tough matches within the first month, including Yorktown, Providence, New Castle, Carmel and Center Grove.
“Our schedule is competitive, so I’m sure we’ll take our beating in the early part of the year,” Cox said. “But I’m hoping that by the middle of September, we’ll find the right combination and be able to compete with anybody.”
Coming off state finals berth, Braves not looking behind them
Despite making a state finals appearance last season, Brebeuf is not focused on last season’s success. A large part of last year’s group comes back after losing just two players to graduation. The team returns Reagan Hopp and Taila Trabue, who both had more than 400 kills, as well as Davia Poythress (103 blocks) and Abbey Richman (514 digs).
“Every year is completely different, even when you’re returning a lot of kids,” Braves coach Brian Murray said. “There’s experience that came from last year, but that’s all we talk about. Everything else is in front us. All we’re talking about now is how we’re going to lay groundwork for sectionals.”
Trojans looking for sixth sectional title in seven seasons
Center Grove and new coach Chris Due are looking for a fourth straight sectional title, and will have a veteran-heavy roster looking to accomplish the feat. The Trojans have three seniors and nine juniors on the team.
Wisconsin commit MJ Hammill and Butler commit Grace Boggess figure to be two leading contributors for this year’s team. Hamill had 867 assists, 171 kills and 226 digs during her sophomore season.
The team will be tested from the start, opening the season against 3A defending champion New Castle before taking on 4A defending champion Avon.
“We try to make it as strong as possible to get us prepared for the end of the season,” Due said.
Coming off state title, Orioles feature new leader and new faces
The Orioles won last year’s 4A title, but enter this season having graduated two key seniors in Jael Johnson and Darian Goins. Holly Eastridge, who had 289 kills as a junior, is the team’s leading returner. Erin Carmichael also figures to play a key role.
Avon has a new head coach for the first time in over a decade, as Amie Sherrod takes over for longtime coach Scott McQueen.