By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
Coach: Craig Pitcher (16th season)
Last season: 20-14
Returning starters: Ellie Evans, Jr., OH; Mackenzie Murphy, Jr., MH.
Other returning letterwinners: Kelsey Law, Soph., OH; Kate Swenning, Jr., DS.
Newcomers to watch: Mia Laughran, Soph., MH; Lindsay Bolton, Soph., S.
Headliner: Ellie Evans slides into the go-to role for the Little Hawks after collecting 119 kills last season as a sophomore.
Keep an eye on: Sophomore Kelsey Law had 57 kills in a part-time role last season and is a candidate for a breakthrough season after ranking fifth on the team with .89 kills per set.
Circle the date: Sept. 5 vs. West High. The Little Hawks host their cross-town rival in the annual Battle for the Spike.
Biggest question: How will the young Little Hawks react in their new roles? City High must replace its top three hitters, its setter and libero from last season but do return some talent. How quickly those returning player settling into their new roles will be a key for the Little Hawks.
Coach: Scott Sanders (1st season)
Assistant coaches: Jill Kofron, Whitney Lang
Last season: 23-15 (Class 5A state tournament)
Returning starters: Colby Greene, Sr., MH; Keimoney Lang, Sr., L.
Other returning letterwinners: Emily Burtch, Sr., MH/OH; Cailyn Morgan, Jr., S; Claire Overton, Jr., MH/OH; Maddie Laffey, Sr., MH/OH; Rylee Fay, Soph., S; Khushi Kapoor, Sr., DS; Liz Walters, Sr., DS.
Newcomers to watch: Laurel Kelley, Jr., OH; Grace Miler, Jr., LH/OH.
Headliner: A three-year starter, Colby Greene was second on the team with 218 kills and 57 blocks last season and should surpass those numbers this season as West High’s unquestioned top hitting option.
Keep an eye on: Sophomore setter Rylee Fay takes over starting duties for older sister Maddie who spent three seasons directing the West High attack.
Circle the date: Sept. 2 at West Des Moines Valley Tournament. The new look Women of Troy will find out a lot about where they stand against some of the best in the state in the always rugged Valley Tourney.
Biggest question: How will West High look under first-year coach Scott Sanders? West High players are familiar with Sanders who spent eight seasons as an assistant at West High and say the transition has gone smoothly from former coach Randy Dolson to Sanders.
Coach: Randy Dolson (1st season)
Assistant coaches: Peggy Dolson, Allie Hutcheson.
Last season: N/A
Promising newcomers: LeeAnn Potter, Soph., OH; Olivia Slattery, Fr., MB/OH; Kaylee Berns, Soph., DS/L; Piper Koski, Soph., OH/DS; Addie Schmierer: Fr., DS/L; Grace Crimmins, Soph., S; Maya Kerschen, Soph., MB.
Other Potential Contributors: Madian Elola, Soph., OH/MB; Laure Roman, Fr., OH/MB; Marit McCaffery, Fr., OH; Hailey Hested, Fr., S; Jordyn Stammeyer, Soph., OH.
Circle the date: Aug. 22 vs. Solon. The first varsity match in program history comes at home against Solon.
Biggest question: What can Liberty do in its debut season? It’s all new for Liberty High which opens its doors and its athletic programs this fall. The Lightning will be young, with the roster made up mostly of freshman and sophomores but expect to be competitive.
Coach: Jordyn Akers (1st season)
Assistant coaches: Emma Pisarik, Annie Fox
Last season: 22-14
Returning starters: Katrina Chambliss, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: Katie Dunn, Sr.; Emily Bonnett, Sr.; Josie Krueger, Jr.; Elly Gahan, Soph.; Ellie Van landschoot, Jr.; Clare Dunn, Sr.; Alexa Lehman, Sr.
Newcomers to watch: Jaedynn Evans, Jr.; Alex Wiese, Jr.
Headliner: Alex Wiese was a RVC elite team pick two seasons ago as a freshman at Tipton when the 6-foot middle hammered a team-high 362 kills.
Keep an eye on: Junior Jaedynn Evans gives the Regals an explosive athlete on the outside. The 5-foot-9 junior averaged 4.6 kills per set last season at Mid-Prairie.
Circle the date: Aug. 31 at Tipton. Regals travel to River Valley Conference South division favorite for a tough early season test.
Biggest question: Is this the year the Regals break through? Regina has steadily improved the past few seasons but is seeking a big breakout under first-year head coach Jordyn Akers.
Coach: Sarah Ferin (2nd season)
Assistant coaches: Laura Birky, Jeff Walker, Kathy Birky
Last season: 8-27
Returning starters: Grace Keith, Sr., OH; Ashley Ford, Sr., MH; Rachael Nelson, S/RH; Raysa Garbes, Jr., S; Abby Smith, Jr., OH/MH.
Newcomers to watch: Taylor Moore, Jr., DS; Kate Benzing, Jr., MH/RH; Lauren Schrock, Fr., MH.
Headliner: After having her sophomore season cut short by injury, Grace Keith rebounded with a strong junior season ranking second on the team with 172 kills.
Keep an eye on: Junior Rachael Nelson is coming off her best season yet a year ago when she ranked third on the team with 96 kills while leading the Spartans with 313 assists.
Circle the date: Sept. 5 at Mount Vernon. Spartans travel up Highway 1 for an early season test against defending 3A semifinalist Mustangs.
Biggest question: Can the Spartans bounce back from last year’s eight-win season? The Spartans experienced an uncharacteristic down season in year one under Sarah Ferin but have talent in place for a big bounce back.
Clear Creek Amana
Coach: Jackie Clubb (4th season)
Assistant coaches: Rachel Berkland, Jamie Hebl, Natalie Fry, Megan Miller, Michelle Lutz
Last season: 21-20
Returning starters: Zoey Boehme, Sr., S; Shauntina Williams, Jr., OH; Karsyn Stratton, Soph., MH; Kelsey Lipkea, Sr., DS; Claire Schwarting, Jr., RS; Cheyaenne Bunch, Soph., S.
Other returning letterwinners: Jane Wilms, Soph., OH; Amelia Pereira, Jr., OH; Jordan Neely, Jr., DS.
Newcomers to watch: Haley Pollock, Fr., MH; Carsyn Gallagher, Soph., DS; Anna Schwarting, Soph., DS.
Headliner: Williams exploded for a team-high 283 kills last season and has the ability to improve on that total this season.
Keep an eye on: Senior setter Zoey Boehme is expected to hold an even bigger role as a leader and distributor this season after handing out 283 assists last fall.
Circle the date: Sept. 12 vs. Independence. The only home match of the month for the Clippers is a key WAMAC title against the Mustangs.
Biggest question: How quickly can the young Clippers catch on? Clear Creek Amana has talent but lacks varsity experience. The quicker the young players get up to speed the quicker the wins should start to pile up.
Coach: John Walsh (2nd season)
Assistant coaches: Mark Begey, Katie Mathis
Last season: 21-16
Returning starters: Sophie Nopolous, Sr., S/RH; Abbey Fryauf, Jr., MH/OH; Riley Vaughan, Jr., S; Courtney Jarrett, Jr., L; Kaiya Luneckas, Soph., OH/MH.
Newcomers to watch: Mackenzie Heise, Soph., MH/RH; McKenna Walsh, Sr., OH; Drew Perkins, Sr., MH/RH.
Headliner: Abbey Fryauf showed signs of breaking through last season, ranking third on the team with 135 kills and leading the Bears with 80 blocks.
Keep an eye on: Senior Sophie Nopoulos put together a strong season in her first year in the lineup leading West Branch with 435 assists and ranking fourth on the team with 79 kills.
Circle the date: Sept. 26 vs. Regina. The two long-time rivals meet in a RVC South Division match after splitting four meetings last season.
Biggest question: Who emerges as the go-to hitter? Senior Abby Knoop is gone after hammering a school record 435 kills last season and West Branch will look to several players to pick up the offensive slack.