SENECA – Coach Karen Raney calls senior setters Emily Woods and Cora Wilkinson “cornerstones” to the 6-2 offense that Seneca will again use this girls volleyball season.
The duo will do more than just set the ball for a Lady Irish team eager to bounce back from a regional semifinal loss to Wilmington that ended their 2015 season. Their first match is scheduled for Aug. 23 at Hall.
“Their contribution as hitters will also be significant,” Raney said. “We want them to get a lot of swings.”
Two more seniors – outside hitter Rachel Sangston and defensive specialist Sam Tondini – add an additional year each of past varsity experience to Woods’ two and Wilkinson’s one.
“We will be counting on [Sangston] as an offensive threat,” Raney said. “As for our passing experience, Sam Tondini is a very solid player for us. These seniors are one of the keys for our season being successful.”
The seniors will be supplemented by a group of juniors that include outside hitters Sydney Poyner, Britney Helms, Alyssa Hauch and Madi Maloney and defensive specialists Morgan Pifer, Sara Cahill, Peyton Harty and Hayley Wilson. Poyner and Cahill may also do some setting. Sophomore outside hitters Hannah Berg and Lexi Greve will also start on the varsity roster.
“We will have to be very solid in serve receive. We [will] see who can step up and provide that for us,” Raney said. “I feel offensively we could be explosive, but it all starts with that pass, and setters have to get the ball in their hands. An area that could make a big difference is the progress of our blocking.”
A traditional Interstate Eight Conference power that finished ahead of only Sandwich in the 2015 standings, Seneca will face a tough task as it attempts to return to form this fall, Raney says. Seneca’s conference opener is a rematch with Wilmington Sept. 6 on the road.
“There will not be a weak opponent in our conference,” Raney said. “Streator will make more noise than last year. Manteno is traditionally strong and big. I think Herscher is going to be even tougher this season. You can never count out Coal City and Wilmington. Really, every team in the conference should be optimistic.”
2015 record: 28-11; Regional champions.
Key returners: Brooklyn Bachmann (Sr., S, 5’9); Taylor Baranski (Jr., DS, 5’6); Holly Bonde (Jr., RH, 6’2); Kamryn Johnson (Sr., RH, 5’10); Alli Papesh (Jr., OH, 6’1); Rocky Perinar (Jr., OH, 6’0).
Key additions: Kate Barker (Jr., MH, 5’9); Sammantha Hermann (Jr., MH, 5’10) Olivia Klank (Jr., MH, 5’8).
Key graduates: Emily Hise and Ginger Perinar.
Coach Carrie Prosek: “We are building off a great finish from the end of our season last year with four returning starters... With the experience that we have from last year, we will come in more confident and working hard on our defensive game. We will have three strong middles fighting for the middle spot, who will all push each other. Our setter is a leader on the court and probably the best overall athlete in the area; she will hold the team together. We have great leadership from all four seniors and our entire team really has a great bond on the court and off and everyone knows and accepts their roles, which will really help building success throughout the season. It is a whole team effort!”
Key returners: Annalyn Bendele (Sr., MH); Kenzi Bugg (Sr., S); Leah Campos (Sr., DS); Cali Caruso (Sr., OH); Kenady Clayburn (Sr., MH); Maddie Halliday (Sr., OH); Alex Michalak (Sr., RH);
Key additions: Ali Brancato (Soph., DS); Blaire Harseim (Soph., OH).
2015 record: 17-7
Key returners: Celia Barna (Sr., S, 5’9); Marlana Ferrari (Sr., MB, 5’9); Kira Gleason (Sr., OH, 5’4); Sydney Perkins (S, 5’7); Jenni Price (Sr., L, 5); Lexi Robison (Sr., MB, 5’11).
Key additions: Kaylee Steichen (Jr.).
Coach Amber Eisha: “The season is hoping to be another successful one and it is definitely beneficial to have the starters back. This group of girls has played together for so many years that they have had a lot of preparation for their final season together. This group can be dominant when they come together and play as the team they are capable of being on the court.”
• Shaw Media’s Kaitlyn Jasnica also contributed to this report