2022 area volleyball preview: Russia expecting big things with 8 returnees


Fort Loramie looking to stay atop SCAL with some newcomers

By Bryant Billing - [email protected]



Russia’s Kate Sherman sends the ball past Versailles’ Brynn Briscoe during a nonconference match on Aug. 28, 2021 at Versailles High School. Sherman had 281 kills and 58 blocks last season.

Russia’s Kate Sherman sends the ball past Versailles’ Brynn Briscoe during a nonconference match on Aug. 28, 2021 at Versailles High School. Sherman had 281 kills and 58 blocks last season.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Fort Loramie’s Summer Hoying bumps against St. Henry during a Division IV regional final on Nov. 6 at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome in Clayton. Hoying had 212 kills last season.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Sidney’s Kyla Rush spikes against Piqua’s Jordan Adkins during a Miami Valley League match on Aug. 26, 2021 at Sidney High School. Rush had 65 kills last season.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Russia's Kate Sherman spikes as Graham's Landree Bacher tries to block during a nonconference match on Sept. 17, 2021 in Russia.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

After a stellar 2020 season that included a 22 wins, a share of the Shelby County Athletic League championship and a regional final berth, Russia struggled to a 3-7 start last year.

But the Raiders rebounded and won 13 of their last 17 matches and earned their fifth consecutive district title and regional berth.

With a host of returning letterwinners back, Russia is hoping to challenge for an SCAL title and a regional title.

“We are a focused and determined veteran team this season,” Russia coach Aaron Watkins, who is entering his seventh season, said. “Offseason and practices are being played at a high level. We are going to be led by a group of three- or four-year starters. Our focus is on each game, each practice and getting better every day.”

The Raiders have a strong front line returning that features senior outside hitter Kate Sherman. Sherman, a four-year starter, had 281 kills and 58 blocks last season as well as a team-high 50 aces. She was a first team all-SCAL selection.

Also back are senior middle hitter Cece Borchers, junior outside hitter Carley Scott and junior middle hitter Roni Poling. Borchers had 158 kills and 62 blocks. Scott had 171 kills and Poling had 146 kills and a team-high 74 blocks.

Another returnee is senior right-side hitter Kelby Doseck. She started as a defensive specialist last season and also had some setting and hitting duties. She will take over at right side this season in place of the squad’s one lone graduated player.

“This is a much more comfortable place for her, and it is showing,” Watkins said of Doseck.

Directing the squad again will be senior setter Miah Monnin, who was a first team all-SCAL selection. She had 721 assists last season.

Other returnees include senior libero Jilian Chapman and senior defensive specialist Simone Puthoff. Puthoff led the squad with 327 digs.

There are nine total seniors on the roster.

“Most of them are playing varsity for a fourth season, so we are looking to them to lead us,” Watkins said. “Juniors Carley Scott and Roni Poling have also grown in the offseason and will be major contributors.”

Watkins said he expects it will be a tough race for the SCAL title this year.

“I think the league is going to have a ton of young talent this year, and that is going to mean a competitive league this season and even more so in years to come.”

FORT LORAMIE

Fort Loramie captured its third consecutive SCAL title last year and its 14th-straight district title and regional berth.

With just five returnees back from last year’s 21-7 squad that lost to St. Henry in a regional final, the squad will look to newcomers to fill in roles left by players who graduated.

The squad has three returning starters up front: senior middle hitter Katrina Berning, junior middle hitter Skyler Albers and junior outside hitter Summer Hoying, who is a three-year starter and the only multiple-year starter out of the squad’s returnees.

Albers had 135 kills last year and led the squad with 44 blocks. Berning had 126 kills and Hoying had 212 kills.

Sophomore setter Jenna Barhorst returns as setter. She had 286 assists playing the position part time last season.

Sophomore middle hitter Victoria Mescher played some last season and will get more playing time this year.

“Very exciting to have such a fun group,” 16th-year coach John Rodgers said of the return letterwinners.

Key newcomers include junior middle hitter Ellen Frilling and junior defensive specialists Hallie Grillot, Jaden Rose and Allyson Hollard. Sophomore outside hitter Avery Brandewie is another key newcomer.

“We are looking for our young defensive specialists to step up and fill that role,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the SCAL race should be competitive as usual.

“Great competition produces great teams year after year,” Rodgers said.

JACKSON CENTER

After struggling somewhat the previous two seasons, Jackson Center was back in top form last year. The squad accumulated 21 wins, tied for second in SCAL play and earned its first district title and regional berth since 2019.

But most of the players from last year graduated. Coach Kim Metz said the focus this year will be on developing players.

“We are a young team again,” Metz, who is entering her 34th year, said. “We have experience in play, but not in playing together. Much of what we can be depends upon how the work ethic of all players develops. Focus has been placed on all aspects of game skills.”

The team has two returning letterwinners in junior outside/middle hitter Macy Klopfenstein and sophomore outside/middle hitter McKinley Reichert. Reichert had 166 kills, 46 blocks and 62 aces last season.

“Macy and McKinley have been great leaders on the court thus far as our summer and preseason has developed,” Metz said. “We know they may be the focal point from our opponents, yet we are always looking to balance the offense and defense.”

Key newcomers include senior middle hitter Nevaeh Ledcke, senior outside hitter Sarah Swiger, junior outside/middle hitter Paige Geuy, junior libero Grace Prenger, junior setter Riley Barhorst, sophomore setters Maryn Ludwig and Avery Jackson and sophomore outside hitters Presley Reese and De Lichtenberg.

FAIRLAWN

After struggling a bit in a .500 campaign in 2020, Fairlawn improved last year. The squad finished 17-7 and 7-5 in SCAL play, good for a fourth-place finish.

The squad lost several players to graduation, but has two starters back: junior middle hitter Addison Swearingen and junior middle hitter Ellie Henman. Swearingen had 183 kills and 32 blocks last season while Henman had 152 kills and a team-high 61 blocks. Also returning is senior defensive specialist Emily Lessing.

The squad has several newcomers, including senior Darcy Marson, junior Julia Huelskamp and sophomores Aubree Jutte, Haley Cox, Miah Huelskamp, Meredith Hageman and Cassie Heath.

“Darcy and Aubree will be sharing setter duties,” Fairlawn coach Ashley Miller, who is entering her fourth season, said. “Julia will be playing libero. Haley, Miah, Meredith and Cassie will be sharing hitting duties.”

Miller said she expects another tough season in the SCAL.

“We are hoping to compete in the league and finish in the middle of the pack,” Miller said.

HOUSTON

The Wildcats are looking for improvement this year with four starters back from last season’s 9-14 squad.

Lauren Vagedes returns for her second full year as head coach; she also coached part of the 2020 season.

“Our girls have been working hard all summer,” Vagedes said. “There has been a really good healthy competition between the girls pushing each other during practices and conditioning.

“Even during conditioning, our girls encourage each other, and I think that is building great team chemistry. We have a good amount of experienced players returning to help our incoming players adjust.

“Houston’s expectations for the season remain the same, to increase our rankings in the SCAL. We are very excited to get the season started.”

Senior outside hitters Emma Kemp and Aliya Stangel return for the Wildcats. Kemp had 166 kills and 25 aces last year while Stangel had 75 kills and 22 aces.

“Both are looking to beat their number of kills from last season and add a few more aces this year,” Vagedes said. “Emma and Aliya are a lot of fun to watch, both are very competitive and hungry for wins.”

Also back are junior middle hitter Kayla Winner and junior setter/right-side hitter Katie Maier. Winner had 89 kills and 27 blocks a year ago while Maier had 172 digs as a defensive specialist.

“Kayla has been working very hard on her arm swing and getting faster,” Vagedes said. “Kayla will definitely be getting more blocks this year, beating her 27 solo blocks lasts season. Katie Maier is switching positions. Last year she was mainly a DS and this year she will be a six-rotation player. Katie is looking to prove herself as an offensive threat this year.”

Vagedes said key newcomers include junior setter Ella Crim, junior libero/defensive specialist Emma Duncum, sophomore middle hitter Lexi Hartings and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Cheyenne Stangel.

“Ella Crim will be our setter this year,” Vagedes said. “Ella brings a lot of leadership with her. I am very excited to see her grow into her new varsity position.

“Emma Duncum and Cheyenne Stangel are both very talented DS’s. Both strive to improve with every ball they touch, with the two of them in the back row I feel confident we’ll be able to get some plays going in the front row.

“Lexi Hartings will be our other MH this year. Along with height, Lexi brings hunger to compete. Lexi has worked so hard over the summer and is very excited to prove herself as a young varsity player.”

ANNA

The Rockets are looking for improvement this season after a 5-18 campaign last year.

The squad will be young again, with four letterwinners back from a year ago.

“We have had a lot of growth this summer,” coach Kelli Zumberger, who is entering her 10th year, said. “Our girls have done an excellent job of being adaptable to change since we had five seniors graduate last year and have all five spots to fill.

“I think that is what is going to make our team so unique this year is that we are going to be able to throw different players in different situations and throw some teams off with personnel playing in different positions.

“Our offense has improved greatly since last year with new hitters changing up their range of shots. I think that we are going to surprise some teams this year as we might appear as an underdog team.”

The squad has a key piece back in sophomore middle hitter Liz Staudter. Staudter led the squad with 174 kills last season.

“She was primarily an outside for us last year but has made the smooth transition as a middle for us and has made it seem so natural,” Zumberger said. “She is quick and athletic and such a fierce competitor.”

Also back are junior setter Brenna Cobb, junior libero Abbey George and sophomore outside hitter Cynthia Davidson.

Cobb had 497 assists and 302 digs last year. George had 136 digs and Davidson had 74 kills.

“Even though a majority of our top returners only have a year of varsity under their belt, they have made great strides since last season,” Zumberger said. “A player to watch out for this year is sophomore Cynthia Davidson. She is an all-around player who has a nice arm swing and can play defense. She’s worked so hard in the offseason and it definitely shows in the level of her play.

“Brenna Cobb will be running part of our offense for us this year and will do a little hitting on the right side and outside for us. She’s a smart, IQ volleyball player and sees the court so well as a setter. She covers the backcourt efficiently and is really something to watch.

“Another player that is really owning her position for us is junior Abbey George. She has worked hard all summer to earn the libero position and is such a quiet force for us on the court.”

Key newcomers include sophomore setter Izzy Jenkins, sophomore opposite Madison Mumaw, sophomore middle Makenna Pettus, freshman outside hitter Ava Reed and freshman outside hitter Ashley Gehret.

Zumberger said Jenkins will share setter duties with Cobb and is playing like an experienced player despite being on varsity for the first time. Zumberger said Mumaw is crafty and is receptive to coaching and said Pettus adds height to the front line and moves well laterally.

“We have two freshmen playing up for us this year and that will be Ava Reed and Ashley Gehret,” Zumberger said. “Both are quick and athletic and have had a good summer figuring out our offense and have started to put some things together.”

Zumberger said the SCAL should be very competitive this year.

“Our league is a tough one again this year, so every night is going to be a tough competition,” Zumberger said. “I find it challenging to pinpoint a team to win it all this year as there is just so much competition. I just hope that we find ourselves in the middle of that conversation.”

BOTKINS

Logan Wattercutter takes over as Botkins’ coach.

The Trojans finished 5-15 last season and have six letterwinners back, including junior setter Janel Platfoot, who is entering her third year as a starter.

“Janel lives up to the hype,” Wattercutter said. “I have never once questioned her dedication to the sport or her team. She is the first person in the gym, the last person out, and is always texting about when she can get more time in the gym. She has a leadership presence on the floor. We will look to her to run our offense this season.”

Also back are middle hitter Trayce Hendrickson, outside hitter Leah Steinke, defensive specialist Gabby Griffith, right-side hitter/defensive specialist Caitlyn Barhorst and middle hitter Kylie Mack.

Steinke, a senior, is a four-year starter and led the team in kills a year ago.

“Leah is a very versatile and committed player who shows up and works hard every day,” Wattercutter said. “She can pass, hit, serve, block etc. as well as anybody. She has a great attitude and is definitely one of our leaders. We will be leaning on Leah’s experience this season.”

Hendrickson is a two-year starter who led the team in blocks last year, and Wattercutter said she’s a dynamic player. He said Griffith has a great understanding and attitude and said Barhorst is playing well after missing all offseason training due to an injury. He said that Mack is a hard worker.

Key newcomers include defensive specialist Emerson Walters, setter Jana Metz, outside hitter Kaitlyn Meyer, setter/outside hitter Brynnan Paul and outside hitters Ashlynn Grewe and Alyson Gerstner.

Wattercutter said Metz has a great knowledge of the game. He said Meyer, a freshman, put in a ton of work in the offseason to earn a varsity spot.

SIDNEY

Dexter Tobie takes over as Sidney’s coach.

The Yellow Jackets will look for improvement after a 5-18 campaign last year.

“My expectations are high for this season,” Tobie said. “I began coaching with Sidney at the junior high level when the current seniors were in eighth grade. I have had the opportunity to coach each one of these athletes. They have not shown the league what they are capable of.”

The squad has eight returning letterwinners, including junior outside hitter Aliyah Taborn, who had a team-high 92 kills a year ago and had 96 digs. She’ll be joined on the front row by senior middle blocker Anna Brady, who had 89 kills and 40 blocks.

Senior middle blocker Shelbie Miller is also set to return on the front line. She had 57 kills and 61 blocks last year. Tobie said Miller ranks among the top five blockers in the Miami Valley League.

Junior outside hitter Kyla Rush, who had 65 kills last year, also returns.

“With strength on the outside and solid blocking from our middles we will be a force at the net,” Tobie said. “Playing a strong defensive game at the net will allow our back row to give us the best opportunity to utilize our hitters.”

The Yellow Jackets are also hoping for a boost in the front row from senior Allie Stockton, who is playing volleyball for the first time since her freshman year. She had 92 kills and 93 digs as a freshman.

“She provides an aggressive block and power on the outside,” Tobie said.

Senior libero Kennah Herrick, senior right-side hitter Kearstyn Maxon-Honacker and senior defensive specialist Lainey Luginbill also return. Herrick had 97 digs last season.

Key newcomers include freshman setter Alena Swearingen, freshman outside hitter Kalesha Rush, junior right-side hitter Hailey Richardson, junior libero/defensive specialist Kaelin Hickman and senior setter/defensive specialist Macie Brautigam.

“We will look to Kenna Herrick to bring what we need defensively alongside Lainey Luginbill, Kearstyn Maxson-Honaker and Kaelin Hickman,” Tobie said. “Our offense will be led by two hard-working dedicated athletes Macie Brautigam and Alena Swearingen.”

Tobie said the goals are to finish above .500 and be contenders for the MVL Valley Division title.

LEHMAN CATHOLIC

Lehman Catholic struggled in its first season in the Three Rivers Conference but is hoping for a better campaign this year with eight returning letterwinners.

“We are very competitive and one year more mature and experienced, but also still young,” Carolyn Dammeyer, who is entering her fourth season at the school, said. “We expect to be contenders in the league and in every match we play.”

Junior outside hitter Taylor Geise, junior middle hitter Marissa Corner, senior middle hitter Kaitlyn Fortkamp, junior right-side hitter Layla Platfoot and sophomore outside hitter Kailee Rank return.

Geise led the squad with 161 kills, 285 digs and 33 aces last year. Rank had 127 kills. Platfoot had a team-high 83 blocks while Fortkamp, a three-year starter, had 60 blocks.

Senior setter Caroline Wesner returns. She is a four-year starter and had 344 assists last year and was second on the squad with 130 digs. Junior libero Claire Adams and junior right-side hitter Ashlyn Geise also return.

MINSTER

Minster is hoping for improvement this year with four returning starters returning from last year’s 10-15 squad.

“Last year, we struggled with injuries throughout the season, which allowed many underclassmen to see a major role on the court,” Cami Garman, who is entering her 12th year as coach, said. “We were young and very inexperienced last year, and we are hoping for our returning letterwinners to help our incoming players adjust quickly to the varsity pace.”

Returning letterwinners include senior defensive specialist Lyndi Hemmelgarn, junior outside hitter Lilly Barhorst, junior middle blocker Kayla Lamm and junior outside hitter Megan Fortman.

Barhorst led the team with 269 kills last year while Lamm had 119 and Fortman had 95. Barhorst had a team-high 68 blocks while Lamm had 57. Barhorst had a team-high 307 digs while Hemmelgarn had 283.

Key newcomers include sophomore setter Brooklyn Osterloh, junior defensive specialist Macy Prenger, junior setter Alayna Prenger, senior middle blocker Kylie Williams and sophomore middle blocker Addi Inskeep.

“Our height and athleticism are going to be major contributing factors for our success this year.” Garman said. “We are hoping to improve upon our ball control and our attacking efficiency over the next couple of months.”

Garman said the Midwest Athletic Conference has been the best it’s ever been over the last five years, and she expects another grueling year this season.

NEW BREMEN

After finishing as either Division IV state champion or runner-up each year from 2017 to 2020, the Cardinals lost to MAC rival New Knoxville in a district final last year. It was the team’s first loss of the season.

To repeat as MAC champions and earn another state berth this year, seventh-year coach Diana Kramer said the squad will have to overcome some early-season injuries.

“After some injuries to some key players, we are trying to piece things together,” Kramer said. “Many girls are changing positions this year. The girls have competed hard this off season, summer, and preseason.

“They care about each other so much and want what is best for the team. Some girls have really stepped up, and our chemistry is improving daily. Expectations remain the same in New Bremen. We are excited to get started. The league and area volleyball will be very competitive again this season.”

The squad has five returning starters, including junior Olivia Heitkamp, who was third on the team with 192 kills last season and first with 66 blocks.

Also returning is sophomore setter Melina Schrader. She had 183 kills last season and 70 aces while setting and playing in the front row. Kramer said Schrader will only set this season.

Senior libero Abby Powers, who was a first team all-Ohio selection in D-IV last year, also returns. She had a team-high 315 digs last year.

Senior outside hitter Rianna Paul and junior Amelia Dammeyer also return. Dammeyer is moving from outside hitter to defensive specialist; she had 126 kills, 58 aces and 177 digs last year.

The squad will be without senior Mia Schmitmeyer this season. Schmitmeyer was a first team all-MAC selection and third team all-Ohio player in D-IV after accumulating 222 kills. She tore an ACL and is out of the season. The squad will also be without sophomore Lydia Bushman.

Key newcomers include senior right-side hitter Megan Reinhart, sophomore defensive specialist Keira Steininger, junior middle hitter Alivia Dammeyer and freshman defensive specialist middle hitter Mary Rindler.

Russia’s Kate Sherman sends the ball past Versailles’ Brynn Briscoe during a nonconference match on Aug. 28, 2021 at Versailles High School. Sherman had 281 kills and 58 blocks last season.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/08/web1_DSC_3836.jpgRussia’s Kate Sherman sends the ball past Versailles’ Brynn Briscoe during a nonconference match on Aug. 28, 2021 at Versailles High School. Sherman had 281 kills and 58 blocks last season. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Fort Loramie’s Summer Hoying bumps against St. Henry during a Division IV regional final on Nov. 6 at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome in Clayton. Hoying had 212 kills last season.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/08/web1_DSC_1454.jpgFort Loramie’s Summer Hoying bumps against St. Henry during a Division IV regional final on Nov. 6 at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome in Clayton. Hoying had 212 kills last season. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Sidney’s Kyla Rush spikes against Piqua’s Jordan Adkins during a Miami Valley League match on Aug. 26, 2021 at Sidney High School. Rush had 65 kills last season.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/08/web1_SDN082821SidVolley.jpgSidney’s Kyla Rush spikes against Piqua’s Jordan Adkins during a Miami Valley League match on Aug. 26, 2021 at Sidney High School. Rush had 65 kills last season. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

Russia’s Kate Sherman spikes as Graham’s Landree Bacher tries to block during a nonconference match on Sept. 17, 2021 in Russia.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/08/web1_DSC_3583.jpgRussia’s Kate Sherman spikes as Graham’s Landree Bacher tries to block during a nonconference match on Sept. 17, 2021 in Russia. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News
Fort Loramie looking to stay atop SCAL with some newcomers

By Bryant Billing

[email protected]

Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.