Coach: Tonya Scherer (22nd season)
Last season: 26-10 (9-1 in Little Ten)
Top returners: Lexie Campbell (sr., OH), Brooklyn Guelde (jr., S), Mady Olson (jr., OH), Nevaeh Sansone (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Mickenzie Hoaglund (sr., OH), Anisia Vasquez (sr., DS), Chesney Auter (jr., MH/OH), Ryleigh Dixon (jr., S), Emily Harness (jr., L/DS), Brylee Jess (jr., S), Hannah Pfaff (jr., OH), Layla Tirevold (jr., OH/DS), Bailey Miller (fr., OH/DS)
Worth noting: Replacing powerful Times All-Area and All-Little Ten Conference first-team pick Brynn Guelde, Times second-teamer Emma Benson and honorable mention Elizabeth Browder won’t be easy, but a solid returning core will head a less-height, more-balance club. Guelde, Olson and Sansone saw a lot of varsity time for last year’s regional finalists and are reunited with talented classmates Dixon, Harness and Pfaff.
In a few words: “We’re not tall, but this group has played together since junior high and in club ball and know each other well,” Scherer said. “That will be a huge bonus for us starting off. … Our defense is going to be a strength, because these girls play all-out. [Offensively] one player might have a good night, the next night it’s someone else. It’s a very balanced team, and it will be exciting to see how they do this year and next.”
Coach: Cathy Sanders (9th season)
Last season: 26-6 (9-3 in Heart of Illinois)
Top returners: Zoe Dye (sr., OH), Ashlyn May (sr., OH), Carolyn Megow (sr., DS/OH), Aliah Celis (jr., DS), Bella Fortner, (jr., S), Kaylin Reints (jr., MH), Allie Weisenhofer (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Kate White (jr., S/OH), Lyla Armstrong (so., OH), Riley Burton (fr.), Macy Gochanour (fr., S), Pru Mangan (fr., S).
Worth noting: The Knights will be without three stars – Ella Goodrich, Kaya Buchanan and Krystin Schwartz – from last year’s tough-luck regional finalists, but three perhaps bigger stars return. Weisenhofer (229 kills, 34 aces, 153 digs) was a unanimous All-HOIC first-team and All-Area first-team pick and Times honorable mentions May and Fortner will be the leaders of this team both on and off the court as it tries for its sixth regional crown in the last nine seasons, but first since 2018.
Coach: Joe Estes (7th season)
Last season: 12-20 (3-9 in Heart of Illinois)
Top returners: Kortney Harms (sr., S/OH), Kalynne Kinderman (sr., OH), Raegan Montello (sr., S), Tomi Ross (sr., DS), Grace Zimmerman (sr., OH)
Key newcomers: Chassie Bednaza (jr., MH), Cameran Corrigan (so., DS)
Worth noting: Harms, a fourth-year varsity starter who was a Times second-team selection a year ago, was a star at setter a year ago, but the emergence of Montello at that position will give her more opportunities to swing outside this season, along with Zimmerman. Defensively, Kinderman is expected to shine again at libero, and Bednaza joins Zimmerman in putting up a big block, but the Falcons will have to find more blocking when they rotate away from the net.
In a few words: “Kortney is so versatile – she sets but also attacks so well – that with Raegan growing into that position it opens up some things for us,” Estes said. “Our strength will be in our setting and libero play. … It’s a very solid core with three fourth-year seniors (Harms, Kinderman, Zimmerman) with a lot of varsity experience, and we hope that pays off for us. We’re very enthusiastic and hopeful for this season and can’t wait to get started.”
Coach: Raquel Craig (1st season)
Last season: 3-21 (2-9 Little Ten Conference)
Top returners: Malayna Kinney (jr., S), Brynn Pennington (jr., OH), Grace Ackerman (so.), Madi Kuske (so.), Adrianna Rodriguez (so.), Olivia Thrall (so., OH)
Key newcomers: Mickey Hernandez (fr.), Zoey Holstein (fr.), Macey Kinney (fr., S), Izzy Podner (fr., OH), Ava Winckler (fr., MH), Lanie Wold (fr.), Gabby Zeno (fr., MH)
Worth noting: Craig, who takes over for four-year coach Mandy Hawk, will be without senior mainstays Julia Winckler and Jessica Barry, who led the team to a pair of wins over DePue and another over Hiawatha. She has a little experience back in third-year players Kinney and Pennington, but the Panthers will be young and learning on the job.
In a few words: “We’re not set on positions yet, but we’re working on it,” Craig said. “We will be running a JV team this year. … No seniors, but I have seven freshmen this year. We’re a young team, but we’re ready to play.”
Coach: PJ McKinney (1st season)
Last season: 34-7 (9-1 in Little Ten)
Top returners: Aubrey Benesh (sr., DS), Kelly Christian (sr., MH), Bre Dixon (sr., MH/S), Mia Geistler (sr., DS), Taylor Kruser (sr., L/DS), Grace Thrall (sr., RS), Lauren Ulrich (jr., S/OH), Kiara Wesseh (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Molly Chapman (jr., MH/OH), Julia DiClementi (jr., DS), Danica Peshia (jr., S/DS), Kodi Rizzo (jr., MH/OH), Alyssa Shriber (jr., DS), Madison Sittler (jr., MH), Stephanie Snyder (jr., DS), Addison Ness (so., RS)
Worth noting: The Norsemen, an LTC power for years under Tonya Grayson, lost a lot from last year’s regional and sectional champs, including four-time All-LTC first-teamer and Times All-Area players Megan Williams (357 kills) and KJ Friestad. Thrall (126 kills) and Wesseh (102 kills) will pick up the slack at the net, helped by another Times first-team pick, Ulrich, back at setter where she popped up 757 assists, 168 digs and 38 aces. Kruser (301 digs) and Benesh (199 digs) join Wesseh and Ulrich in a solid back row.
In a few words: “We have some experience coming back that has played in a few big games, with Lauren, Grace, Kiara, and Taylor playing big roles,” McKinney said. “Looking for them to lead a group that is excited to show that Newark volleyball is still here.”
Coach: Selynda Kern (10th season)
Last season: 13-18 (4-9 Interstate 8)
Top returners: Claire Allen (sr., OH/MH), Alyssa Broce (sr., DS), Kaylin Herren (sr., MH), Maddie Hill (sr., OH), Alexis Sexton (sr., S), Breanna Sexton (sr., L), Amanda Skinner (sr., OH), Alana Stahl (sr., OH)
Key newcomers: Jillian Ashley (jr., DS), Miya Klossing (jr., S), Jessica Kruswicki (jr., DS), Lexie Randa (jr., OH), Alexis Sinetos (jr., MH), Brooklyn Marks (so., OH), Londyn Scott (so., MH)
Worth noting: Graduated 6-foot-3 middle Audrey Rome (Times and I-8 first-team pick, 270 kills, 41 stuff blocks, now at UConn) is a big loss, but there’s plenty left, including eight letterwinning seniors. Allen, a Times HM choice, leads middles Herren and Sinetos and outsides Skinner and Stahl up front, while Alexis Sexton has her game together and looks “phenomenal” and “in control.” Twin Breanna Sexton leads the back row.
In a few words: “Missing Audrey will hurt,” Kern said, “but we have experienced seniors back, and they are very aggressive. These group is strong defensively. It takes a lot for a ball to drop on them. They don’t let them go. … If our hitting can put the ball away, I feel the other aspects of our game are there. We have to make sure we finish plays.”
Coach: Noah Champene (5th season)
Last season: 22-12 (7-1 in the Tri-County)
Top returners: Callee Bauer (sr., DS), Cassia Buchanan (sr., DS), Sophie Cato (sr., MH), Fallon Hamilton (sr., DS), Kennedy Hartwig (sr., DS), Neely Hougas (sr., OH), Leslie Klicker (sr., OH) Caitlyn O’Boyle (sr., OH), Gabi Maxwell (jr., RH), Taylor Mino (jr., DS), Sam Vandevelde (jr., DS)
Key newcomers: Faith Baker (jr., RH), Teegan Johnson (jr., MH), Audry McNabb (so., MH), Lainie Olson (so., S), Alyssa Zellers (so., DS)
Worth noting: The Irish lost Times first-teamer Emma Smith and honorable mentions Zoe Hougas and Madi Mino, but Cato, McNabb and Klicker will be the go-to hitters in a 5-1 attack set by Neely Hougas. O’Boyle, Johnson and Baker are solid outside threats. Zellers, Bauer, Hartwig and Vandevelde are battling for the back row. Champene likes how his club is serving aggressively.
In a few words: “I’m super excited,” Champene said. “We had a really good summer … the girls looked better than expected. The seniors have something to prove and are full of energy, and all the girls are working hard and meshing well. It’s a good mix of great all-around athletes with experience. … Our hitting will come along, but if we win the serve game and pass consistently, we’ll have the opportunity to win a lot of games.”
Coach: Chris Bjork (2nd season)
Last season: 18-7 (8-3 in Little Ten)
Top returners: Abby Johnson (sr., MH), Paige Sexton (sr., OH), Arianna Tanas (sr., DS), Sophie Thompson (sr., S), MaKayla McNally (jr., MH), Paisley Twait (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Danni Britt (jr., DS), Bella Erpenbach (jr., L), Hannah Hardyman (jr., DS), Abbu Jahp (jr., DS), Makenzie Manke (jr., OH), Harley O’Dell (jr., DS), Natalia Perez (jr., DS), Gabi Welch (jr., S), Rayelle Brennan (so., DS), Kendall Whiteaker (fr., OH)
Worth noting: Sexton, a Times second-team selection last fall, and veterans McNelis and Twait are the leading candidates to replace the steadying influence and leadership of Times HM pick Katie Baker. The Huskers will be out to make up for last season’s heartbreaking first-round regional loss to Woodland
In a few words: “We lost some key players last year to graduation. However, we have plenty of talented players ready to step up and fill those holes,” Bjork said. “It is still very early, but I’m confident that this team has the ability to have a great season. These girls have been working very hard and are excited to get things rolling next week.”
Coach: Aleesha Carlson (5th season)
Last season: 11-17 (5-5 in Little Ten)
Top returners: Whitney Andrews (sr., S), Amelia Grace (sr., OH), Baylee Ohlson (sr., OH), Ali McBride (jr., L/DS), Haley McCoy (jr., OH), Josie Rader (jr., MH), Riley Snider (jr., RS)
Key newcomers: Alexis Matejovsky (jr., MH), Morgan Potter (jr., RS), Olivia Taylor (jr., MH), Addie Britt (so., RS), Emma Hohmann (so., OH), Taylor Johnson (so., DS)
Worth noting: The Bobcats are a team in transition. After having lost six seniors, among them multisport star Maggie Roberts, Sydney Johnson and Audrey Westbrook, SHS will rely heavily on several somewhat experienced youngsters. The setting of Andrews, experienced hitters in Grace, Snider, Rader and McCoy, and a solid defense paced by McBride will be keys to competing in the conference.
In a few words: “This team is showing a lot of positive energy on the court and a strong defensive base,” Carlson said. “Although we are a young team, we have three returning seniors and four returning juniors … and some promising new players and a full roster. Overall, our team is looking forward to a great season.”