Digging in: Experienced Olympians have lofty goals

Not long after the Columbus East volleyball team lost a close match at Center Grove in last year’s regional, the Olympians were back on the court preparing for the 2016 season.

The Olympians have a goal to make it to state, and they’re determined to make sure that dream becomes a reality.

“That’s something that we’ve been talking about since November,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “It’s showed in their work ethic. They were in here four days a week in the summer, and they hit the weight room hard and they were dedicated. We were probably one of the hardest working teams in the state, and I think that’s a testament to our desires and our wants and our big goals that we do have. We’re really driven, and we’re really motivated.”

The Olympians return a core group of five players who all have been on the varsity since their freshman years. Senior outside hitter Cortney VanLiew has committed to Florida Gulf Coast, and senior middle hitter Bailey Western has signed with Northern Kentucky.

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Junior Kendal Williams returns at setter. Senior Alaysha Pollert is back at libero, but is being challenged for that spot by senior Brooke Banister.

“All of those girls have been staples in what we’ve done for the past two years and the previous year, so they’re going to be the core that we’re really going to focus on,” Pagnard said.

Senior Adycin Rager, who plays in the back row, also saw a little action on last year’s team that went 28-9 and won Hoosier Hills Conference and sectional titles.

Senior McKenna Chandler and sophomore C.J. Clausen will see action at middle hitter. Freshman Allison Mack could play some at outside hitter.

“We’re very well rounded, and we have a lot of options,” Pagnard said. “It’s a hard thing as a coach, but a good thing. It’s a good problem to have with our program.”

Columbus North

After going 20-14 in 2014, the Bull Dogs slipped to 10-22 last season. With several key returners, they’ll look to bounce back this fall.

Senior middle hitters Imani Guy and Maliah Howard-Bass are entering their fourth year on the varsity. Howard-Bass was a setter and right-side hitter last season, but is back in the middle, where she played as a sophomore.

“She’s very athletic,” North coach Caitlin Greiner said. “She moves very well laterally, and I think for the dynamic of the team, the middle is suiting her well. She’s looking very athletic in the middle.”

Senior Madelin Johnson returns at setter. If the Bull Dogs use a 6-2 offense, sophomore Lily Meyercord will be the other setter.

Senior Hannah Weaver returns on the outside, and sophomore Augustina Fainguersch moves from middle to outside hitter. Junior Katie McAninch will step in on the right side.

Senior Mackenzie Rooks is back as the libero. Sophomore Maddy Sebahar and junior Sidney Roese also return in the back row.

Freshman Emma Tynan could see action in the front row. Sophomores Thais Oehlinger and Madi Beck could see varsity action, as well

“I’m really excited about this season,” Greiner said. “The girls have worked very hard all summer and even in the offseason, and I think we are a very well-rounded team. We don’t have one individual that kind of carries us. Every one of our players is a key component.”

Hauser

The Jets have some big aspirations after going 34-2 and winning a sectional title last season. Making it to state is among the goals.

This summer, the Jets played in summer leagues in Edinburgh and Indianapolis and a tournament in Muncie. The Munciana Volleyball Club ran a camp at Hauser.

“I think we’re going to be pretty good, potentially better than last year,” Hauser coach Jeff Case said. “I don’t know if we can match that record. That was pretty amazing, but they’re playing pretty well.”

Senior Brea Metz and junior Sydney Schoen, both of which have started since their freshman years, return on the outside. Junior Alana Owen is back at setter and juniors Tannyr Davis and Madie Sherman return in the middle.

Junior Sarah Tedder, who played in the back row last season, takes over at libero. Senior Hailey Lange is back after missing most of last season with a back injury.

Juniors Shelby Zachariah and Megan Swinford also could see action on defense. Sophomore Taylor Henderson could play on right side and in the middle. Junior back-row player Lauryn Starnes is currently out with a back injury, but could return this season.

“The potential is there,” Case said. “There are a lot of good teams out there, but this is a really good team. It will be interesting to see how far we can get.”

Columbus Christian

The Crusaders return virtually their entire varsity after finishing just above the .500 mark last season.

To add to the optimism, sophomore twins Sabrina and Savannah Herron are back after playing for Columbus Christian in middle school, then for the East JV last season. Sabrina Herron is a setter, and Savannah Herron is an outside hitter.

Senior Hannah Lorimor moves from the middle to the outside, and freshman Madison Henderson moves from setter to middle hitter. Senior Savannah Spurgeon is back on the right side, and eighth-grader Hannah Stair is back at libero.

Eighth-grader Mayah Schundelmeier moves from the outside to the middle. Juniors Morgan Hunnicutt and Michaela Schundelmeier and sophomore Grace Lorimor also could see action.

The Crusaders will miss freshman middle Lauren Hunnicutt, who is out for year with an injury.

“I have a good feeling about this group,” Columbus Christian coach Bruce Giggy said. “We’re going to be quite a bit better than we have in the past. We’ve had a lot more time with these girls.”

Jennings County

The Panthers hope to get off to a better start this season after losing their first 11 games and finishing 6-26.

Senior Carissa Kinney returns at setter, and junior Emma McPeek and sophomore Mary Leahigh are back in the middle. Senior Kayla Wilson returns on the right side, senior Sydney Brown is back on the outside and senior Krystal Wilson moves from defensive specialist to libero.

Junior Emma Shockley and freshman Hannah Bertram could see action in the back row. Seniors Denza Simpson and Katie Schneider also could see action on the left or right side.

“I think mentally and physically, we’re stronger,” Jennings coach Susan Kinney said. “They’re flowing a lot better. I think they’re having more fun. The camaraderie and the communication and the whole level is much higher.”

Brown County

The Eagles didn’t lose anybody to graduation from last year’s 5-21 team but will miss leading hitter Kiera Omberg, who moved to Virginia.

Junior Hallee Miller returns at outside hitter, sophomore Shea Keller is back in the middle and juniors Madalyn Allen and Katelyn Pearson return at setter and right-side hitter. Sophomore Baelyn Koester is back at libero, and seniors Elisabeth Huls and Ryanne Smith return in the back row.

Senior Vanessa Hoskins, who played at Brown County her first two years, is back after going to Edinburgh last year. Freshmen Chloe Lee at and Haley Davidson could play in the middle, while sophomore Maggie Redmond at setter and sophomore Mekenzie Dunnuck in the middle or right side also could see action.

“Between having everybody coming back and as much time as they spent in the offseason, they’re pretty familiar with each other,” Brown County coach Julie Owens said. “We feel like with more experience and some senior leadership in the back row, we have some puzzle pieces. Right now, we just have to make sure we’re putting them in the right spot.”

Edinburgh

The Lancers return some heavy hitters from last year’s 24-10 team, but beyond that, will rely on five freshmen.

Seniors Mara Cox and Bri Howard are back at outside hitter. Senior Sydney Schlotter and sophomore Taylor Tatlock return in the middle.

Freshmen Paige Burton, Sophia Parmer and Haley Jones are battling for the starting setter job. Freshman Haven Link will play on the outside, freshman Emily Chappalow will play in middle and Burton could see action all over the court.

“It’s going to be a really tough schedule,” Edinburgh coach Tina Bottorff said. “Our goal is to get better every practice and every game. I know we could be great, but I also know we could just be mediocre. It just depends on how hard we work.”

Trinity Lutheran

The Cougars went 21-10 and rolled through their sectional last season before falling to eventual Class A state champion Christian Academy of Indiana in the regional.

Senior Lexi Schneider returns in the middle, senior Hailley Peters is back on the outside and senior Whitney Rogers moves from defensive specialist to libero. Junior Courtney Barker is back at setter, and junior Abby Hackman played on the left and right side.

Junior Sydney Stahl in the middle, sophomore Abby Schult in the middle and right side and sophomore Savannah Harweger, who plays all the way around, saw a little varsity action last season. New to the team are junior setter Samie Newmister, freshman outside hitter Chloe Criswell, freshman middle hitter Hannah Sabotin and freshman defensive specialist Ashley Goecker.

“I’m very excited,” Trinity coach Chelsa Stroub said. “We lost five seniors last year, but I’m very optimistic looking forward to some of the younger girls stepping up. We have a lot of athletes and a lot of different options.”

At a glance

2016 volleyball schedules for Bartholomew County schools:

Columbus East

Tuesday;at Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.

Saturday;Jeffersonville;11:30 a.m.

Aug. 23;at Seymour;7 p.m.

Aug. 27;East Invitational;9 a.m.

Aug. 30;Jennings County;7 p.m.

Sept. 3;at Providence Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 8;Provicence;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 13;at Bedford North Lawrence;7 p.m.

Sept. 15;at New Albany;7 p.m.

Sept. 20;Perry Meridian;7 p.m.

Sept. 24;at Cathedral Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 27;Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 29;at Columbus North;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4;at Madison;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 6;at Roncalli;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8;East Invitational;9 a.m.

Oct. 12;Floyd Central;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 15;at Carmel Invitational;9 a.m.

Columbus North

Thursday;Shelbyville;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 23;at Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 25;at Heritage Christian;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30;at Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3;at North Central Tournament;9 a.m.

Sept. 6;Southport;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 8;Center Grove;7 p.m.

Sept. 10;at Jennings County Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 13;Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 15;at Brownstown Central;7 p.m.

Sept. 17;at New Albany Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 22;Martinsville;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 24;at Muncie Central Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 29;Columbus East;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4;at Bloomington South;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 6;at Franklin;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8;Conference Indiana tourney at Franklin Central;10 a.m.

Oct. 11;Seymour;7:30 p.m.

Columbus Christian

Tuesday;at Bloomington Lighthouse;7 p.m.

Friday;at Horizon Christian;6:30 p.m.

Aug. 22;at Columbus Cruse;6:30 p.m.

Aug. 23;at Madison Christian;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 29;Trinity Christian;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30;at Suburban Christian;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 1;Madison Christian;8 p.m.

Sept. 8;at Fortune Academy;5:30 p.m.

Sept. 9;Crosspointe Christian;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 10;at Richmond Christian Academy;2:30 p.m.

Sept. 12;Columbus Crush;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 13;Bloomington Lighthouse;7 p.m.

Sept. 15;at Traders Point Christian;7 p.m.

Sept. 17;Horizon Christian;2:30 p.m.

Sept. 19;at Christel House Academy;7 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Calumet Invitational;TBA

Sept. 24;at Calumet Invitational;TBA

Sept. 27;at Martinsville Christian;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 29;Providence Cristo Rey;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 3;Medora;7 p.m.

Oct. 4;Southside Christian;7 p.m.

Hauser

Tuesday;at Jennings County;7:30 p.m.

Thursday;Jac-Cen-Del;7:30 p.m.

Saturday;at Henryville Tournament;9 a.m.

Aug. 25;Indianapolis Lutheran;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30;Indian Creek;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 1;at Madison Shawe;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 6;Morristown;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 8;Eastern Hancock;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 12;at Seymour;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 13;at Brown County;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 15;South Decatur;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17;at Lawrenceburg Tournament;9 a.m.

Sept. 20;at Southwestern (Shelby);7:30 p.m.

Sept. 22;at Trinity Lutheran;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 29;Oldenburg Academy;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4;at Edinburgh;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8;at Edinburgh Tournament;9 a.m.

Oct. 10;Waldron;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 11;at Milan;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 13;Greensburg;7:30 p.m.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.