TERRE HAUTE —
An abundance of experienced volleyball players will take the court in the Wabash Valley this fall.
That should translate into a high number of victories continuing to pile up for Big Four teams.
• Northview — The Knights went 28-6 in 2012 before dropping a match to 27-4 Martinsville in Class 4A sectional action.
Northview will happily move down to Class 3A in 2013 and hope that a deep state tournament run is in the cards.
While team leader Brylie Riddell is gone, Northview coach Scott McDonald should have plenty of firepower remaining to approach last year’s win total.
Senior Shelbi Morris, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, and 5-9 junior outside hitter Kenzi Kumpf, were a close second and third on the team in kills last season.
Other seasoned players — such as senior defensive specialist Audrey Clark, 6-1 middle hitter Mikayla Rowan, junior setter Taylor Hess, 5-10 middle hitter Morgan Stearley, 5-9 opposite Madison McDonald and defensive specialist Ashley Heck — are back in the mix.
“The expectations are as high as they’ve ever been. We’re now in 3A, and that makes a huge difference,” McDonald said.
Rather than have to play larger schools such as Martinsville, Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South, the Knights will instead battle Western Indiana Conference rivals such as Edgewood in the sectional. The Knights have won five straight WIC titles.
“Edgewood and us have always been a rival game. We’ll have to play extremely well to win against them,” McDonald added.
The Knights spent the offseason hoping to improve defensively.
“We’ll have to block a little better. We didn’t block very well last year. At 4A, that kind of hurt. We’ve had a real good summer. We played pretty well in a league at Circle City. We’re trying to build off of that,” McDonald said.
• Terre Haute North — Entering her 15th season at Terre Haute North, coach Kris Painter is upbeat about the Patriots’ veteran-laden squad.
North had a productive summer, going 8-4 in the Circle City league at Plainfield. The Patriots were 16-9 last fall, and Painter sees a team capable of improvement on that mark.
Four seniors and third-year starter Mandee Eberle will look to set the tone for the Patriots in their final season in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
Senior setter Anna Taylor directs the North offense, with 5-11 senior Brianna Burgess as a right-side hitter, and Eberle making the move from middle to outside this season. A 5-11 sophomore, Valerie Lewis returns to the starting lineup as well as 5-7 Lauren Comer and libero Maddy Howes.
Sophomore Lindsey Klingele, a 5-11 middle, is a newcomer to the varsity lineup.
“We’ve seen a lot of good things out of Lindsey, she’s a likely starter,” Painter said.
Junior Kristen Mauer, seniors Emily Brashier, Brittani Chamberlain, Madison Peabody and Breanna Taylor round out the Patriots’ bench.
“We’ve got a lot of experience there. They’ve worked hard. We’re excited to get it started,” Painter said. “We’re hoping to compete better than [last season]. With Mandee moving to the outside, that gives us a lot more hitting options. All five of our hitters are strong. It’s been a while since we’ve had that. The last couple years, I feel we’ve been about one hitter short.”
• Terre Haute South — With Madison Minnick out the season on maternity leave, assistant coach Stephanie Millington is excited to lead a talented Braves squad.
South lost setter Ashley Bazier and hitter Brittney Pink to graduation, but many underclassmen gained experience in 2012.
“We’ve got a good core of players,” Millington said. “This is a team that’s been talking about being young for the last couple years. Now, we’re old. Can’t use the youth excuse.”
The Braves have good size up front with 6-0 junior Maddie Callahan on the outside, 6-0 Bailey Williams on the right side and 6-0 sophomore Meaghan Etling in the middle.
“Our height this year is going to be a nice change. We had a lot of girls playing year-round. Hopefully, they can carry that level into the fall season. And we just need the seniors to continue to lead,” Millington said.
Senior Marissa Coutinho returns as libero and 5-8 senior Kaitlynn Gilmore will be a setter and a key back-row player. Junior Hannah Stephens is another setter, and 6-1 freshman Caitlyn Newton will be a big contributor as well as 6-0 junior Allison Kittell in the middle.
• West Vigo — Krystal Baker is optimistic about developing a winning team in her first year as head coach.
Middle blocker Lexus Elkins, a 6-0 senior, is joined by back-row players Jordynn Scott and Hannah Barton. Scott and Elkins are four-year starters and Barton “is a really strong server and a good anchor for our defense,” Baker said.
Elkins is also joined in the starting lineup by her sister Shyanne Elkins, a 6-1 junior right-side hitter.
“I’m excited that they’ll be playing next to each other. They should work well together and give us a big block,” Baker said.
Senior Shelby Byrley is a 5-10 senior middle blocker who can give the Vikings’ depth up front.
Junior Nikki Wilson is the Vikings’ powerful outside hitter, Baker said, while sophomore Kylie Cardinal is the Vikings’ setter.
“She’s very athletic, a natural leader, a quiet force and very consistent,” Baker said.
Another underclassmen, Lizzy Barton, should provide another offensive weapon off the Vikings’ bench.
“She can just hammer the ball,” Baker said.
The Vikings open up Tuesday at home against South Putnam. Baker, who played volleyball for Rhodes College in her hometown of Memphis, Tenn., said she and new assistant coach Caitlin Tilford are hoping to bring a high-energy approach to the program.
“We’ve made a lot of improvements. Just looking forward to bringing a new high energy to the program. Trying for faster tempo,” Baker said. “I think we’ll be good. We should do well in our conference. I really enjoyed it this summer. Very energetic group, love to have fun on the court.”