The North Dorchester High School volleyball team gets a new gym inside its new High School for 2019.
The Eagles has always held a strong home court advantage, and they look to reload inside the new Eagles Nest.
All-Mid-Shore first-team picks Jenna Usilton — now playing at Wesley (Del.) College — and Leanna Asplen graduated from last year’s 12-6 team that reached a third consecutive 1A East Region final, but head coach Carol Hubbard thinks the personnel is in place to extend that run.
The lineup features seniors Anna Hubbard (OH), Kayley Bradley (MH), Chloe James (OH) and Danielle Stiles (DS), along with juniors Kara Robbins (setter) and Skye Adshead (LIB) and sophomore setter Pam Hubbard.
“I think that is definitely within reach,” Coach Hubbard said of a fourth consecutive 1A East Section II title. “Our strengths are communication and movement on the court. We’re working on strengthening our serve and serve receive. If we can get those initial passes up I think we have as strong a team as anybody out there.”
The Eagles will again compete in the South Bayside.
Jen Powell’s Easton teams have worn the bull’s-eye plenty of times before, but that was always in softball.
That tag comes earlier this school year, as Easton High’s volleyball team prepares to defend a North division and Bayside Conference championship for the first time in program history.
“They know coming into this year they’ve got the bull’s-eye on their back,” said Powell, whose team went 16-2 overall, 10-0 North Bayside last year on the way to its first division and conference crowns, and region final berth. “They know that what they did last year isn’t always going to stand as the dominant thing. They know if they want to do it again this year they’ve got to really work harder than they did last year. And they’re putting in the time, so I’m really proud of them for that.”
Senior middle hitter Myia Jeter, who compiled 254 kills, 130 assists, 97 digs, 51 aces and 34 blocks last year en route to earning All-Mid-Shore Player of the Year honors, returns to lead a largely seasoned cast.
Jeter will be surrounded by familiar faces, including junior off-hand hitter Kate Chapple, an All-Mid-Shore first-team choice last year, and senior off-hand hitter Emily Griffith, a second-team selection. Junior outside hitter Jade Williams is part of the starting lineup along with freshman setter Aarianna Hutt, while Powell said juniors Ashanti Stanley and Erica Barrow will share time at the other outside-hitting position.
“Overall fundamentally, coming in this early we definitely got some rust we’ve got to get off,” Powell said. “Filling in a couple of holes from last year, we’ve got to get a little bit of consistency with comfort levels of being next to a new person. Overall I think our strong suit still is how close they are. There is no one real standout. Everybody works together and is family.”
The Warriors have had one scrimmage play-day, which Powell labeled an opportunity to knock the dust off and get it together.
“It was a good eye-opener of like, ‘OK, this is where we are right now,’” Powell said. “We need to work to get three steps better.”
Senior Emma McKenzie and junior Jenny Shaw will be worked into the rotation in utility roles on a team that already has an established agenda.
“They know it. I don’t have to even say it,” Powell said in regard to the Warriors chasing a second straight division and conference title and contending for a Class 2A East Region championship. “The great thing about it, especially this senior leadership we have, they say it to themselves. As a coach I don’t have to tell them. They know. With some of the returners we have, they’ve not only had success with me, they’ve had success in other sports in the past year. They know everybody’s coming for them.”
Despite those high hopes, Powell will keep her team focused on a familiar theme.
“I just want them to be competitive and successful like we do every year, and see where we go from there,” Powell said.
Here’s a look at the rest of this year’s Mid-Shore teams:
The Colonels went from 5-12 in 2017 to 6-11 and a spot in the 1A East Section II final last year. Third-year head coach Steph Garey thinks that upward slope can continue with the returning of a strong senior and junior cast.
“We definitely have quite a bit of experience,” Garey said. “I have depth in every position, which I don’t think I’ve had that much depth before, so I think that’s a good thing. My goal is to make it further than we did last year and have a better record than last year, which I 100 percent think we can do. I think these girls want to do that.”
Senior opposite Alexis Bates, an All-Mid-Shore first-team choice last year, heads up a starting lineup that includes senior classmates Hope Kraus (setter), Aubrie Meredith (OH), Mikala Harrison (MH), Jayonia Jackson (MH) and Rachael Bassford (OH).
Providing depth are juniors Allison France (OH), Maddie Covey (opposite/setter), Grace Buchanan (setter) and Kayla Petterson (OH).
The Trojans return everyone from last year’s starting lineup — the exception being All-Mid-Shore first-team pick Taiyana Goldsborough — giving head coach Michelle Phillips reason to think bettering last year’s 2-12, 0-10 slates is attainable.
“It will be on us if we don’t; it will be our issue and not everybody else’s,” Phillips said.
Back from last year’s starting unit are seniors Yasmine Jiggetts (setter), Lisa Robinson (hitter), Sammie King (LIB/DS), Lexi Langenfelder (MH) and junior Cameron Spence (MH). Senior Matalyn Cesarini (OH) steps into the starting slot vacated by the graduated Goldsborough.
Phillips figures to work juniors Julianne Diallo (LIB/DS), Katherine Pagano (DS), Lexi Landon (DS), and Katie Stecklair, sophomores Bianca Potts (H) and Natalie Walls (DS) into the rotation, along with possibly freshman Alyssa Thomason (MH).
“It’s coming together,” Phillips said. “It’s just a matter of continuing to improve and limit our unforced errors. That’s always been our issue, not that we couldn’t compete. We just have to limit our errors.”
The school’s former baseball coach, Glenn Brainer goes from junior varsity to head varsity volleyball coach, succeeding Patrick Hopkins.
“The Bucs graduated a whole lot of hitting, setting, defense and leadership from 2018,” Brainer wrote in a text of a squad that went 11-5, 8-2 a year ago. “The 2019 team has many talented returning players and new arrivals. It will take hard work and a relentless effort from every player to match last year’s 11-4 (regular-season) record in the much improved North Bayside Division.”
All-Mid-Shore first-team hitter Lily Golembieski, who totaled 96 kills, 52 blocks and 48 aces a year ago, leads a solid senior group that includes hitters Emily Blum, Nevaeh Carter and Katie Sonneveldt, libero Mia Calzada del Valle, setter Kennedy Warren, and hitter/setter Madison Williams.
Brainer will look to juniors Hayley Frew and OC Graham, and sophomore Zoe Ciboroski to fill the role of defensive specialist with the graduation of first-team pick Desiree Hanks. The Bucs look to have plenty of depth with junior hitters Caroline Carmean, Emma DePhilippo and Rachel Guerra, and classmates Maddie Ellwood (H/S), Brooke Loveless (S/H) and setter Madison Tinsley.
“We have eight seniors who have all had a positive role in how this season is shaping up,” head coach Amanda Vanskiver wrote in a text.
At the core of that senior group is setter Madelyn Rorabaugh, libero Ashley Blake, and middle hitters Camryn Pepper and Kelsey Walters.
Queen Anne’s County
An assistant last year, Devin Beattie takes over for Kim Betts, who stepped down after 12 seasons, over 100 victories, a Bayside Conference championship and two divisional crowns.
“Very tough to follow,” Beattie said of Betts, who will remain the school’s head softball coach. “She’s a great coach. I got to learn a lot from her last year and it’s very nice that we have a good friendship so I can go and talk to her if I need it.”
All-Mid-Shore first-team selections a year ago, outside hitter Caitlin Pfeiffer (team-high 121 kills and 146 digs last season) and middle hitter Maddie Tisher (87 kills, 35 blocks, 120 digs, 39 aces) anchor the starting unit along with classmate Alyssa Sofinowski (LIB), an honorable-mention choice. The starting rotation will include a mix of seniors Kylie Tulowitzky (OH) and Kate Tolson (right-side hitter), and juniors Bella Bitter (setter) and Taylor Walls (MH).
“We’re looking really good this year,” said Beattie, who thinks the potential is there to improve on last year’s 8-7 record.