Despite big challenges facing the Warriors limited roster, the Warriors are pre-season pick.
Balance will be the watchword in SVC Volleyball this season, with five or six teams having a legitimate chance to take the title.
Maybe it is force of habit, respect for their 21 titles in 22 years or that local sports fans don't know about some "roster challenges" facing the Adena Volleyball team this fall. Regardless, a majority of those voting on the wkkj.com web poll are still picking the Warriors to repeat as SVC Champs for an 8th straight season.
The fan web poll showed 34% picking Adena to claim the crown, followed by Westfall at 15%, Zane Trace 14%, Huntington 13%. Unioto and Southeastern garnered 8% of the vote, Piketon 7% and Paint Valley 5%.
The 7-time-defending-champ Warriors, who also advanced to the State Final Four last season, lost five seniors to graduation off the 2011 squad. If that were not enough, they also have seen five returning varsity letter winners from last year- decide not to play this year along with two more varsity prospects. The Warriors are being led by senior and four-year-letter winner Jenny Grigsby (All SVC) and senior Alyssa Kennedy, junior Bridgette Scaggs, sophomore Karli Bower and Kirstin Dawson. Adena's 98 match SVC win streak and 142 match home win streak could be in serious trouble, when they host Westfall in Tuesday's opening match.
Many volleyball fans believe Westfall is actually the team to beat this season, although the Mustangs have a challenge of their own due to the injury of sophomore front-row player Amanda Curry. Curry shined as a freshman last year, but has experienced some back problems over the summer. But even with that bump in the road, Westfall still has one of the biggest front-lines in the conference and will be looking to hitter/setter Olivia Cobb (All SVC) for allot of offense this fall. Cobb is also expecting to get big help from talented freshman Hannah Phillips. Kayla Tackett will also be counted-on heavily.
Huntington returns a good nucleus from last year's district title team, including All SVC Jackie Kellough as an all-around-stand-out. They also lean heavily on back row defensive specialist, Alayna Lytle, the SVC's Defensive Player of the year in 2011. They also have high hopes for freshman Dylana Gragg for help at the net.
Zane Trace could be the team to upset the entire apple-cart, with Hayley Carle, Delaney Spetnagel, Alex Chaffin and Jillian Pontius. The Pioneers did lose some key players to graduation from last year's district runner-up, but those returning received valuable experience that could help them to the top of the SVC this year. Look for ZT to get better every time they take the court. Gaining playing time experience will be their ally as the season progresses.
Speaking of experience, Unioto got plenty of that for their younger players last year and return sister-act Alexis & Taylor Overly along with Karee Neff, Halle White and Emily Ward. Unioto and Westfall are the only Division 2 squads in the SVC, but hope to make a run for a conference title before the post-season rolls around.
Paint Valley is getting more players participating in volleyball under first-year coach Jacquie Whittle. Like Westfall, they will be one of the tallest teams in the SVC and boast of one of the league's top-athletes in Taylor Baker to anchor the Bearcats squad.
Southeastern has size on the net in Morgan Jones and All SVC Maddie Arledge returning, as the Panthers hope to regain respect in the conference, where they have not won a title since 1989.
Piketon shows some promise in their athletic ability with the likes of Aleah Pelphrey and K.K. Jenkins.