|FROM THE PRESS BOX: A LOOK AHEAD TO THE 2017 VOLLEYBALL SEASON (2016-11-16)
The 2016 volleyball season ended with three of the four Valley teams in the postseason, including another Section IV title for Tioga, and Sayre’s first-ever berth in the District 4 finals.
Waverly reached the postseason again, but it’s stay was brief, while Athens again failed to reach the postseason.
The crystal ball is in focus and it shows 2017 will see some different results for Valley teams.
Athens Lady Wildcats: Athens finished the season at 5-13, equalling its win total from the 2015 season.
The Lady Wildcats graduate five seniors, including Grace Kinsman and Reagan Lynch, who will both be hard to replace. They do return a strong sophomore class, led by hitters Sydney Liechty and Megan McDuffee, and Amelia Martin.
Prediction: With just four players returning with experience, the Lady Wildcats will need its bench players from this year, as well as a few JV grads to step up. As it stands now, topping this year’s win total in 2017 will be an accomplishment.
Sayre Lady Redskins: Sayre finished off the season with a 14-4 record and its first-ever berth in the District 4 finals.
The Redskins graduate several key seniors — Molly Ball, Andi Noldy, Emmalee Cooley, and Domi Woodruff — from a team that has enjoyed one of the best two-year stretches in the history of the program.
The Lady Redskins return Madeleine Dutra, Camryn Brown and Madison Harding, so the building blocks for a good front line remain. The back row will be comprised of this year’s bench players and graduates from the JV ranks. Another pressing issue will be replacing Noldy, a three-year starter, at the setter position.
Prediction: The big question surrounding the Sayre program is the direction it will take without Shay, who is stepping down. Regardless of who is at the helm, the Lady Redskins should be competitive in the Small School Division, but going toe-to-toe with the Large School foes like it did this year will be a tall order.
Tioga Lady Tigers: Tioga finished up its season with a 20-1 record and a loss in the state quarterfinals. The Lady Tigers are now 4-3 under Des Ford in state quarter-finals matches, including a 2-2 mark in the last five years.
Tioga graduates “Player of the Year” Olivia Howland, as well as setter extraordinaire Kellie Wainwright, libero Megan Godfrey, and role players Aylissa Fiske and Morgan Babcock.
Those losses will hurt, but the Lady Tigers had an embarrassment of riches in hitters this season and return Martha and Anna Schumacher, Charli Hall, and Kurstan Martin, and will likely see Giovanna Rossi and Bri Stoughton graduate from the JV ranks and contribute next season.
Hall will likely slide into the setter position for her senior season, and could get some help from JV grad Chloe Bellis and senior-to-be Emily Birney.
Prediction: The gap between Tioga and the remainder of the IAC will narrow a bit in 2017, but it could easily run the table again next year and win its fifth consecutive division title and overall IAC title. B-G showed its ready to become part of the discussion in Class C, but the Lady Tigers return a wealth of talent and I think coach Des Ford’s run of dominance continues for one more year.
Waverly Lady Wolverines: Waverly finished the season at 9-8 with a loss to Windsor in the Section IV playoffs.
The Lady Wolverines graduate three starters, but return the majority of their rotation, led by Katie Goodwin, Sydney Meyers, and Jordan Mente,
Meyers and Mente are the building blocks of a good front line, and Goodwin, Brooke Bennett, Abigail Searles and Becca Salsman are the same in back row, but the Lady Wolverines will need a couple players — whether it be bench players from this year’s team or JV grads — to step up for this team to get to the next level.
Prediction: Watkins Glen and Thomas A. Edison return the majority of their teams next year, so Waverly will be hard-pressed to make a run at the IAC South Large School Division title. In Class B, Owego and Windsor will remain the teams to be beat, and Norwich is an up-and-comer.
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