SENECA – As might be expected for a team that equaled its deepest run in the girls volleyball postseason in 26 years, Seneca relied on seniors in 2012.
Front-row standouts Nicole Pihl and Aspen Stuedemann were first-team All-Area selections by the Morris Daily Herald after their senior seasons. The two totaled nearly 500 kills, recording 249 each. Libero Chelsie McCormick, who also graduated, was a second-team All-Area pick.
Three players that merited All-Area status in 2012 do remain for the Lady Irish. Senior Danielle Hauch, an outside hitter, was a second-teamer, and senior outside hitter/setter Kayla Haines and junior setter Madison Wyss were honorable mention selections.
Junior middle Lexi Wilkinson also played big varsity minutes as a sophomore.
“We’re really excited to have back at least four of our starters,” Haines said. “We have a lot of knowledge on our team, so we’re going to be a really smart team.”
Senior defensive specialist Maggie Thomas earned a varsity letter last season. The roster also includes two senior newcomers in middle Taylor Vandenburg, a transfer from Morris, and outside hitter and defensive specialist Ana Munoz. Juniors new to the varsity are outside and middle hitter Kendall Carajohn, libero Jessica Clubb and outside hitters Neeka Garcia, Lauren Hickle and Alexis Lind.
“We have a mix of new faces, first time varsity players and experienced veterans,” Seneca coach Karen Raney said.
“Something very positive is that the girls have high, attainable expectations for the season. Their work ethic, team camaraderie and senior leadership will definitely provide the opportunity for success. It is very important to them to repeat as regional champions.”
Although Seneca totaled 10 more victories than Coal City last season, Coal City was champion of the Interstate Eight Conference division. Raney expects Coal City to again be a favorite, along with Lisle and Westmont.
“The I-8 is an extremely competitive conference where every opponent has to be respected,” Raney said. “The conference race will tight and going to the very end of the season. As coaches, we are very enthusiastic and proud of what we have seen so [far] and what the coming months could bring.”
Haines, who said her game improved from another offseason of playing club volleyball at MVP 60450, believes the sequel to last year’s run to the championship match at the 2A Sectional could be better than the original.
“We really think we can go father than we did last year,” she said.