The prep volleyball season starts with some familiar faces in new places.
Two athletes who earned either All-Area first-team or second-team accolades last season have transferred to different schools.
First-teamer Lizzy Barnard, who helped Tri-County to third place in the Class 1A state tournament, will be an impact player at Unity.
Second-teamer Rowan Crozier, who starred at DeLand-Weldon, has moved to neighboring Monticello.
Also in a new location is former Urbana athlete Alayna Jackson, who is enrolled at Centennial.
They aren’t the only elite players returning. In all, three of last year’s 10 All-Area first-teamers were underclassmen, as were three of the 10 players on second team.
Besides Barnard, Schlarman’s Laura Gross and St. Thomas More’s Lexi Wallen are other returning first-teamers. Joining Crozier on the list of second-team returnees are Schlarman’s Jordan Marganski and St. Joseph-Ogden’s Shelby Simmons.
Four of the volleyball starters for coach Susan Kentner at Bismarck-Henning are also four of the strongest performers on her track and field team. Mary Bass and Jessica Hall were state qualifiers in track last spring. The other multisport standouts are Shelby Haga and Maddie Winkler.
Kentner has so much confidence in Winkler that she abandoned the two-setter rotation she has used for the past decade.
“We’re running more offensive plays than we’ve ever had before,” Kentner said.
Bass is the lone returning B-H volleyball starter. She is among six seniors on the squad.
Volleyball has come full circle for Fisher coach Allison Pentti, who returned to her alma mater last fall as the head coach.
“My varsity coach (Jennifer Nigg) was pregnant when I was a senior (in 2000),” the former Allison Douglas said.
That baby, Megan Nigg, is now a freshman and one of the outside hitters in the Bunnies’ program.
Pentti has a claim of distinction herself.
For the first time since 2009 (when Lindsey Ideus was in her third year as coach), the same person has returned to coach Fisher volleyball for a second year. Last year’s senior class had four different head coaches in four years.
“The climate and atmosphere is so electric and exciting,” Pentti said.
Thirteen area schools have made coaching changes since last season ended.
Heather Lindenmeyer has returned to Sullivan as the head coach after a two-year hiatus. Another familiar face is ex-Illini (and former Central coach) Kylie McCulley as Unity’s coach.
At Urbana, former Tiger Jackie (Williams) Douglas moved up from her assistant’s role in 2012 to take over as head coach. “The strengths of our team will be our heart, dedication and resilience,” Douglas said.
Another school that turned to a former player is Rantoul, where Traci Riddle (1994 graduate) is in her first season. “I’m excited for what the future holds,” Riddle said.
Amy Schreiber is in charge at Arcola. Jeana Block was hired at Villa Grove, replacing Lydia Benson, who took the head coaching position at Tuscola.
Michelle Lancaster is the first-year Buckley Christ Lutheran head coach. Thomas Stone is now at Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, Kristin Borchers is at Iroquois West and Anne Picklesimer moves up from her position as assistant at Westville.
Clinton’s program is being handled by co-coaches Denise Hickman and Leslie Creager. They’ve worked together for several years as staff assistants and, Hickman said, “hold the same game philosophies, strategies and ideas.”
At Prairie Central, coach Kim Hasty is out on maternity leave until the end of September and assistant coach Jean Keenan has been filling in.
One school with a different name on its coaching roster is still under the direction of the same person. Chrisman coach Kelly Schluter is the former Kelly Hilligoss. She and Leroy Schluter were married in August.
There will be at least one coaching change for next season. Arthur-Lovington’s Val Cornwell is retiring in May after 34 years of teaching and coaching.
Atwood-Hammond’s last hurrah starts tonight with a home match against Argenta-Oreana. Volleyball is the last girls’ sport that’s not part of a co-op, and this is the final year of competition. Coach Erica Carter has 17 players, including five returning starters, on her roster. Next fall, Atwood-Hammond will be annexed into the Arthur-Lovington district. A-H will have one boys’ sport (basketball) that it will field independently this school year.
All but one of Mahomet-Seymour’s varsity players were associated with club volleyball programs in the offseason.
“That’s making a huge difference in our progress and I’m excited to see what this group of kids can accomplish,” head coach Ron Hoppe said.
Five Bulldogs participated on club teams that advanced to the USA Junior Nationals in Dallas: Cortney Bohn, Abby Cockerham, Mason Moore, Madi Woo and Sirena Woo.
Shiloh has a group of student-athletes who are involved in their school.
The potential valedictorian (Bethany McGinness) and salutatorian (Lauren Moses) are starters for the Raiders and also serve as student council co-presidents.
The FFA president (Bailey McIntyre) is playing volleyball, as is the FFA reporter/historian (Karla Madden) and the junior class president (Tori Stierwalt).
“This is a very dedicated group to their activities, academics and athletics,” coach Casey Long said.
Argenta-Oreana’s Katlyn Gibson is back with volleyball after a two-year layoff. She is also running cross-country for the Bombers. ... Armstrong-Potomac’s Morgan Zindars completed a threepeat last year, lettering in three sports for the third year in a row. She’ll try to add to that total as a senior. ... Cerro Gordo, which had no seniors last season, has its entire roster back, plus one addition. Kristie Krigbaum missed her junior year with a knee injury. ... Champaign Central won the Mahomet-Seymour Summer League, handing Centennial its only loss in the championship match. ... Heritage, which was undefeated in summer league play at Chrisman, is seeking a third consecutive regional crown. The Hawks have five returning starters: Jennifer Lannon, Miranda Pruitt, Cedar Richarson, Taylor Wienke and Ashley Zellers. ... Judah Christian libero Emily Gewirtz, an all-conference first-teamer last season, has committed to playing in college at Cedarville (Ohio) University. ... Oakwood’s roster includes three players who are ranked near the top of their classes academically, juniors Sadie Edwards and Preslie Fletcher as well as sophomore MaKayla Gayler. ... Salt Fork softball coach Kali Ford has joined Brent Bowman’s volleyball program as an assistant coach.
Nifty Fifty: Players to watch
NAME SCHOOL YR. POS.
Taylor Bauer Watseka Jr. OH
Lizzy Barnard Unity Sr. OH
Kylie Beaumont Judah Christian So. S
Sierra Bell Schlarman So. L
Chantell Bonham Atwood-Hammond Sr. OH
Maddie Bounds Prairie Central Sr. MH
Kelly Braghini Centennial Jr. MH
Kelsey Buckman Georgetown-Ridge Farm Jr. OH
Natalie Castonguay Watseka Jr. L
Shelby Clanton Fisher Sr. L
Madi Clark Unity Sr. L
Sherelle Coller Arthur-Lovington Sr. S
Rowan Crozier Monticello Sr. S
Heidi Dague Tri-County Jr. MH
Alexis Dick DeLand-Weldon Sr. OH
Taylor Edwards Arcola Jr. MH
Emily Gewirtz Judah Christian Sr. L
Karly Goodman Arthur-Lovington Sr. MH
Hayley Gray Watseka Sr. MH
Laura Gross Schlarman Jr. S/MH
Lexi Hall Centennial Sr. S
Olivia Heffernan Fisher Sr. S
Hillary Hines Cissna Park Sr. MH
Alayna Jackson Centennial Sr. MH
Peyton Jones Oakwood Jr. MH
Klaire Karmazinas Arcola Sr. L
McKenzie Krutsinger Unity Jr. S
Katie Kupferschmid Prairie Central Sr. L
Maddie LeGrande Champaign Central So. OH
Louisette Lukusa St. Thomas More Sr. OH
Jordan Marganski Schlarman Sr. S/MH
Jori Maynard Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sr. L
Rachel Miles Armstrong-Potomac Sr. OH
Hannah Murray St. Thomas More Jr. S
Lauren Moses Shiloh Sr. MH
Emily Neuhauser Sullivan Jr. OH
Miaya Peacock Centennial Sr. L
Cedar Richardson Heritage Sr. OH
Mikayla Rolinitis Westville Sr. L
Lizzie Rupkey Monticello So. L
Shelby Simmons St. Joseph-Ogden Sr. OH
Katie Sloniger Champaign Central Jr. L
Abby Smith Tri-County Sr. MH
Lexi Wallen St. Thomas More Jr. OH
Dana Westfield Champaign Central So. OH
Taylor Wienke Heritage Sr. S
Kaitie Wildman Atwood-Hammond Sr. L
Sirena Woo Mahomet-Seymour Sr. L
Emily Zelhart Blue Ridge Jr. S/OH
Morgan Zindars Armstrong-Potomac Sr. S