Columbus East graduated a boatload of talent from last year’s regional champion volleyball team, but coach Stacie Pagnard thinks she may have a closer team this season.

The Olympians lost seven seniors, including four three- and four-year starters, from a team that went 26-12. That includes two-time The Republic Volleyball Player of the Year Cortney VanLiew, who now is playing at Florida Gulf Coast.

“We lost a lot, but we also had a lot of young kids playing key roles,” Pagnard said. “On paper, they’re not going to blow people away by volleyball talent and awards they’ve won. But this team is the most talented I’ve ever had when it comes to team chemistry and having that team-first mentality.”

The leader of this year’s team is senior setter Kendal Williams. Williams is a four-year varsity player and is entering her third year as the starting setter.

Last year, Williams was an All-Hoosier Hills Conference selection.

“She’s our leader off the court and on the court,” Pagnard said. “She’s our leader in terms of work ethic, too. She cares, and that’s the biggest testament. We’ll go as far as Kendal can carry us as far as leadership and work ethic.”

Junior C.J. Clausen returns at middle hitter, and sophomore Allison Mack is back at outside hitter. Sophomore Rilee Jessee was a part-time starter at outside hitter.

Jessee’s sister, freshman Regann Jessee, will start in the middle. Junior Emily Banister, who played some at defensive specialist last season, is battling for the libero role with juniors Keeleigh Kikendall and Ashlyn Bergman.

“They’re hard workers, they’re young and they’re learning,” Pagnard said. “The learning curve is really high, but the one thing we never have to do is ask them to work harder. It’s probably one of the hardest working groups I’ve had. There’s never a practice I have to press them to compete. The youth doesn’t concern me because their work ethic and their mindset is tremendous.”

Columbus North

Like East, The Bull Dogs lost a ton of talent from last season.

North lost its top five players from a team that went 16-14. Three varsity regulars return.

“We’re young,” North coach Caitlin Greiner said. “We lost a solid five seniors last year, but we had such a talented freshman class. We have a lot of experienced players still coming back.”

That includes junior outside hitter Agustina Fainguersch and junior Maddy Sebahar, who moves from defensive specialist to libero. Junior Lily Meyercord, who saw action as the backup setter last season, likely will move into the starting role.

Sophomores Emma Tynan at outside and right-side hitter and Gabby Genth in middle and right-side hitter saw some varsity action last year. So did senior outside and right-side hitter Katie McAninch.

The Bull Dogs could get a boost from junior Lauryn James in the middle. James played at East as a freshman, but did not play last season and transfered to North in the spring.

Senior Sidney Roese, junior Madi Beck and sophomore Carley Finke could see action on defense. Senior Hannah Warton, who was injured last year, could play on the right side, and junior Sophie McKinney will be the backup setter.

“We always have lofty goals and strive for excellence here,” Greiner said. “We have a bunch of really hard-working girls, which we’re fortunate to have. We did last year, and that carried over to this year.”

Hauser

The Jets had one of the best seasons in school history last year. They went 33-4, won the Mid-Hoosier Conference title and claimed sectional and regional crowns.

Hauser lost top hitter and four-year starter Brea Metz, but return four seniors who have been starting since their freshman or sophomore years.

“We’re looking really good on defense, and I think we’ll have a good serve attack,” Hauser coach Jeff Case said. “We’re definitely going to miss Brea’s hitting, but we’re going to have a more balanced attack. You’re not going to replace Brea with one player.”

If anyone can do that, it would be senior outside hitter Sydney Schoen. The Eastern Kentucky recruit was a Class A All-State selection last season.

Senior Alana Owen returns at setter, and senior Madie Sherman is back in the middle. Senior Sarah Tedder moves from libero to outside hitter.

Junior Taylor Henderson returns on the right side and will be the backup middle hitter. Senior Megan Swinford steps in at defensive specialist

“They’re all pretty sharp and have a high volleyball IQ,” Case said. “We’re going to be a smart team and mentally tough with good senior leadership.”

Sophomores Melanie Taylor will step in at libero, and sophomore Kylie Lock will be a defensive specialist or right-side hitter. Freshman Hannah Johnson could see action in the middle, and sophomore Shelby Fugate could play some outside hitter.

The Jets received a little bit of a setback when senior Tannyr Davis, a two-year starting middle hitter, moved to Indianapolis and enrolled at Perry Meridian.

Columbus Christian

The Crusdaers are coming off an Indiana Christian Schools Athletic Association semistate appearance and a National Association of Christian Athletes Division III national title.

Sarah Stair, who has been an assistant with the program, takes over as head coach. She inherits a team that went 22-4 last season.

“We lost two seniors, but we have others who should fill those roles,” Stair said. “We have a lot of talent, and we should gel together throughout the season. We’ve upped the intensity in practices recently, and I think that’s going to take them far.”

Senior outside hitter Savannah Herron and senior setter Sabrina Herron return to the lineup. Also back are freshman Mayah Schundelmeier in the middle and freshman Hannah Stair at libero.

Sophomore Lauren Hunnicutt will play in the middle and possibly outside. Junior Grace Lorimor and senior Morgan Hunnicutt will be outside hitters. Junior Michaela Schundelmeier could play outside, and senior Erica Gregg could play outside and possibly in the middle.

Columbus Christian will be without freshman returning starter Madison Henderson, who tore an ACL a couple weeks ago.

Jennings County

The Panthers also have a new coach. Blakli Nading, a former player at Jennings and Hanover College and the Panthers’ assistant JV coach last year, takes over a team that went 8-21.

“It’s just a mindset,” Nading said. “They have to believe in themselves. We’re doing a lot of team bonding, team building. We’re really trying to push playing for each other and not for me. They just have to believe in themselves and believe in each other.”

Senior Emma McPeek moves from middle to outside hitter. Also back are junior middle hitter Mary Leahigh, sophomore libero Hanah Bertram sophomore middle hitter Abi Vogel and senior defensive specialist Sydney Holt.

Senior setter Maddy Hill and senior defensive specialist Emma Shockley saw some varsity action last year. Looking to step into roles are junior Marley Stearns and senior Chandler Turner on the right side, senior Kailee Nauert on the outside and junior Karlee Madinger and freshman Elizabeth Ertel at setter. Senior front-row player Jalea Millon is back out for volleyball for the first time since her freshman year.

Brown County

Seven varsity players are back for the Eagles, who look to improve on a 12-13 season.

The returners are senior outside hitter Hallee Miller, senior right-side hitter Madalyn Allen, junior libero Baelyn Koester, junior middle hitters Shea Keller and Mekenzie Dunnuck, junior setter Maggie Redmond and sophomore outside hitter Haley Davidson.

New to the varsity this year are sophomore right-side hitter Chloe Lee and sophomore setter Abigail Hollander.

Edinburgh

The senior-less Lancers will be rebuilding this year after going 16-16 and finishing second in the MHC.

Junior middle hitter Taylor Tatlock returns with the most experience. She is joined by sophomores Sophia Parmer and Paige Burton at outside hitter, sophomore Emily Chappelow on the right side and Haley Jones at setter

Three freshmen figure to see varsity action in middle hitter Trinity Tatlock, utility player Annelise Lollar and possible libero Gracie Long.

“We’re definitely building for the future,” Edinburgh coach Tina Bottorff said. “We’re going to take it one set at a time and one contact at a time. We’ve gotten a lot of playing time this summer, and we’ve seen a lot of growth. We’re definitely expecting to compete.”

South Decatur

The Cougars will look for a winning season after going 9-22 last year.

Seniors Zoey Nobbe and Claire Wullenweber return at outside hitter. Also back are senior libero Kalya Carter, senior setter Taylor Best and junior middle hitters Madison Owens Sam Goodfellow.

Junior Brianna Collins will step in as the right-side hitter. Sophomore setter Whitney Burton also could see varsity action.

“We had a really good summer turnout for the girls this year, and they seem to be really excited,” South Decatur coach Carrie Somers said. “They all get along well. I think that will be an advantage.”

Trinity Lutheran

Trinity went 16-13 and won a sectional title last year before falling to eventual Class A state runner-up Christian Academy of Indiana in the regional. With CAI bumped up to 2A because of the tournament success factor, the Cougars hope to make a deeper tournament run.

Four seniors return in outside hitter Abby Hackman, setter Courtney Barker, defensive specialist Sami Newmister and Sydney Stahl, who moves from the middle to the right side. Junior Abby Schult moves from the right side to the middle.

Sophomores Hannah Sabotin in the middle, Chloe Criswell on the outside and Ashley Goecker at defensive specialist saw action last season. They’ll be joined by freshman Bailey Reynolds at setter and right-side hitter and freshman Lauren Knieriem on defense.

“I’m looking forward to this year,” Trinity coach Chelsea Stroub said. “I think we have a lot of good freshmen and a lot of good team unity. We have a lot of girls who are stepping into those senior roles very well.”

If you go

2017 volleyball schedules for Bartholomew County schools:

Columbus East

Aug. 15;Bloomington North;7 p.m.

Aug. 19;at Jeffersonville;11 a.m.

Aug. 22;Seymour;6:30 p.m.

Aug. 26;at Yorktown Tournament;9 a.m.

Aug. 29;at Jennings County;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 2;at Delta Extravaganza;9 a.m.

Sept. 7;at Providence;7 p.m.

Sept. 12;Bedford North Lawrence;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 14;New Albany

Sept. 19;at Perry Meridian;7 p.m.

Sept. 21;at Floyd Central;7 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Cathedral Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 26;at Bloomington South;6 p.m.

Sept. 28;Columbus North;7 p.m.

Sept. 30;North-South Invitational;10 a.m.

Oct. 3;Madison;7 p.m.

Oct. 5;Roncalli;7 p.m.

Oct. 7;East Invitational;9 a.m.

Columbus North

Aug. 15;at Seymour;7 p.m.

Aug. 17;at Shelbyville;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 22;Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 24;at Roncalli;7 p.m.

Aug. 29;Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2;at North Central Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 5;at Southport;7:30 p.m.

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

Sept. 12;at Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14;Brownstown Central;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 16;at New Albany Invitational;10 a.m.

Sept. 21;at Martinsville;7 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Muncie Central Invitational;9 a.m.

Sept. 26;at Bedford North Lawrence;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28;at Columbus East;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 3;Bloomington South;7;30 p.m.

Oct. 5;Franklin;7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7;at Terre Haute North;10 a.m.

Oct. 7;Terre Haute South at Terre Haute North;1 p.m.

Columbus Christian

Tuesday;at Columbus Hawks;7:30 p.m.

Thursday;Columbus Hawks;7 p.m.

Saturday;at Dugger Union;2 p.m.

Aug. 15;Bloomington Lighthouse;7:30 p.m.

Aug. 18;at South Central;7 p.m.

Aug. 21;at Suburban Christian;7 p.m.

Aug. 22;at Horizon Christian;7 p.m.

Aug. 28;Martinsville Christian;6:30 p.m.

Aug. 31;Madison Christian;7 p.m.

Sept. 7;at Fortune Academy;6 p.m.

Sept. 8;Christel House Academy;6 p.m.

Sept. 12;at Bloomington Lighthouse;7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14;Traders Point Christian;7 p.m.

Sept. 16;Horizon Christian;12:30 p.m.

Sept. 21;at Madison Christian Academy;7:15 p.m.

Sept. 23;at Calumet Invitational;TBA

Sept. 25;Southside Christian;6;15 p.m.

Sept. 26;at Community Christian;6 p.m.

Sept. 28;at Providence Cristo Rey;6:30 p.m.

Oct. 3;at Medora;7 p.m.

Hauser

Aug. 15;Jennings County;7 p.m.

Aug. 17;at Jac-Cen-Del;7 p.m.

Aug. 19;at Henryville Invitational;9 a.m.

Aug. 22;at New Palestine;7 p.m.

Aug. 24;at Indianapolis Lutheran;7 p.m.

Aug. 31;Madison Shawe;7 p.m.

Sept. 5;at Morristown;7 p.m.

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

Sept. 11;Seymour;7 p.m.

Sept. 12;Brown County;7 p.m.

Sept. 14;at South Decatur;7 p.m.

Sept. 16;at Lawrenceburg Tournament;9 a.m.

Sept. 19;Southwestern (Shelby);7 p.m.

Sept. 21;Trinity Lutheran;7 p.m.

Sept. 22;at Waldron;6:30 p.m.

Sept. 26;North Decatur;7 p.m.

Sept. 27;at Greensburg;7 p.m.

Sept. 28;at Oldenburg Academy;7 p.m.

Oct. 3;Edinburgh;7 p.m.

Oct. 5;at Greenfield-Central;7 p.m.

Oct. 7;at Edinburgh Tournament;9 a.m.

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