COACH: Veteran coach Bob Shansky enters his 37th season with the Potters. He currently ranks near the top 10 all-time in the state with more than 450 wins.
LAST SEASON: The Potters had an incredible run last year that didn't end until the Elite 8. East Liverpool finished the season at 25-2, finally falling to the eventual state champs in Columbus Bishop Hartley. "When you sit back and look at it, it was a great ride," Shansky said. "You don't get to experience a season like that very often. As a coach, you're lucky of it happens once in your career. It was an exciting run. I think the community support was what really made is special."
LETTERMEN LOST: The Potters lost what was arguably the best class in school history. Gone are Kelly Kiger, Allison English, Mallory Waggle, Kelcie Wymer and Whittni Davidson.
LETTERMEN BACK: East Liverpool returns three senior starters in Taylor Jordan (setter, hitter), Morgan Campbell (outside, middle) and Jordyn Adkins (setter). The Potters have five other seniors as well, including Jordan Chupa, Kathy Rowe, Mary Davis, Brittany Conkle and Becky Brewer. "We have eight seniors, and they're great kids, but they don't have much varsity experience," Shanksy said. "For a lot of them, this is their first varsity playing time." Also in the mix for the Potters is junior Kiara Cowart, sophomores Kylie Golden and Paige Craig (who is out with injury) and freshman Caitlyn Davis.
TEAM STRENGTH: "Intelligence," Shanksy said. "These girls play smart. And we need that with a lack of height. Our tallest girl is probably 5-foot-7 or 5-8. To make up for that, you have to put the ball where you want it."
TEAM CHALLENGE: "We want to move the ball around, make good passes and find out who's hot," Shanksy said. "These girls need to create their own legacy. We'll get better with experience, each game continue to progress. After going 25-2, we've got a bull's eye on our back. We'll probably have some ups and downs until they discover their own style and get their timing down."
SEASON OUTLOOK: Shanksy listed three team goals: "We want to qualify for and do well in the OVAC playoffs," Shanksy said. "We'd obviously like to do well in the sectionals and districts, but we have to get there first. And we want to come in each day and work hard. If we do that, the other things will take care of themselves."
COACH: Sarah Lowe begins her fourth season with the Beavers. Lowe will be assisted by Santana Williams, Kerrie Haurin and Jake Walgate.
LAST SEASON: Beaver Local finished 14-8 overall last season. The Beavers defeated Indian Creek in their sectional opener before falling to Minerva in the second round for the third straight season. "The girls worked hard to improve," Lowe said. "The big goal this year is to win sectionals. That's a goal we've set. Indian Creek was a great team and we got a good win there. Now, we want to take that next step."
LETTERMEN LOST: The Beavers will look to replace five seniors lost to graduation, including: defenders Kendra Kelly and Cheyenee Marsden as well as hitters Ashley Ricciardi, Aly Yajko and Taylor Pike. "That was a strong senior group," Lowe said. "They were very team oriented."
LETTERMEN BACK: Beaver Local returns five letter winners this season. Back are seniors Laini Roberts (libero), Alyson Buchheit (setter), Mackenzie Davis (setter) and Nevada Dobbs (middle hitter), and junior Danna Talbot (outside hitter).
TEAM STRENGTH: "We have very strong setting and defense with this group," Lowe said. "Plus, we have smart and experienced hitters to put the ball down."
TEAM CHALLENGE: "The most important thing is for our seniors to build up some experience," Lowe said. "We're going to try to bring them and some of the younger players along quickly during the season."
SEASON OUTLOOK: "We want to get past Minerva, make it out of sectionals and qualify for the OVAC Tournament," Lowe said. "This is a hard-working group of girls. Those are our goals, but they're not looking ahead. We have goals we set each week. If we're successful at achieving those goals each week, they we can accomplish a lot."
COACH: Dan McKinstry enters his 16th season with the Tigers. McKinstry also spent 20 years at East Palestine, and recently reached 600 career wins. Ashley Cunningham will serve as McKinstry's varsity assistant.
LAST SEASON: The Tigers finished 20-5 a season ago. They were finally ousted in the playoffs by Lisbon in the district semifinals. "I know it sounds harsh, but I don't think we played great late in the season," McKinstry said. "We didn't play well in the tournament or in the last few weeks of the season. It wasn't bad, with 20 wins we were obviously doing some things right, but we weren't as consistent as I would have liked."
LETTERMEN LOST: Wellsville lost two four-year letter winners to graduation in Noelle Amato and Rilee Livolsi.
LETTERMEN BACK: The Tigers have five lettermen returning this season led by seniors Sarah Skinner (middle hitter), McKenna Pierson (setter, outside hitter) and Maleya Fultz (outside hitter). Also back are sophomores Jayla Martin (outside hitter) and Angelica Scarabino (libero). Also in the mix are juniors Brittany Clendenning and Domenica Cartwright and sophomores Shayna Hamilton and Cheyenne Corbin.
TEAM STRENGTH: "I think we're a much better serving team this year," McKinstry said. "It's one of the things we worked on a lot. We didn't get a lot of aces last year. I also think we're better defensively and we should continue to improve in that area. We need to work on consistency. Last year, we would run off seven or eight points in a row then kind of have a lull."
TEAM CHALLENGE: "We're going to experience a little bit of growing pains early on," McKinstry said. "We've got five lettermen back, but other than Sarah Skinner, most of them have a different role. We're doing some different things and have had some roles change. We want to be better defensively. It doesn't matter what the sport is, whether it's basketball or football, you've got to play good defense to win. That's been a primary emphasis for us during practice."
SEASON OUTLOOK: "We would like to win the ITCL Lower Tier title," McKinstry said. "That's always a goal of ours. We haven't talked much about the postseason tournament yet. We'll wait until we get closer to discuss that. But, our overall goal is to keep getting better as we go along. We don't want to ever reach a plateau where we level off."
COACH: Veteran coach Ethel Riser is in her 32nd season with the Oak Glen Golden Bears. Riser has won a total of four state championships (1998, 1999, 2008, 2011) during her time at Oak Glen.
LAST SEASON: The Golden Bears defeated Frankfort last year for the West Virginia Class AA state championship by scores of 25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21. It was the Bears fourth state title overall and first since 2008. "Teamwork was the key," Riser said. "That's what it takes of any team that's going to win a state title. You can't be worried about yourself. You can't be selfish with the ball, and we have a group that plays unselfish."
LETERMEN LOST: Oak Glen lost only one senior to graduation, that being setter Tayler Maxwell.
LETTERMEN BACK: The Bears return a total of seven letterwinners from last season, including: seniors Sydney Kell (setter), Abby Tice (libero), Caitlyn Smith (libero) and Lacee Porter (outside hitter), juniors Morgan Poling and Vanessa Williams and sophomore Jessican Stivason. Porter is a returning first team all-state performer. Also in the mix is junior Carissa Williams and Jessica Hutton as well as freshmen Madison Jusczcak, Logan Andrews and Alex Arnott.
TEAM STRENGTH: "We've got a lot of experience back," Riser said. "Team leadership is something we have a lot of. This group is always giving that vocal encouragement that you need. I don't really even have to say much with this group. They take care of all that themselves."
TEAM CHALLENGE: "We've got experience playing in the state tournament and you can't get that anywhere else," Riser said. "Plus, we've already played in our own big tournament. We work on improving all aspects of our game every day. Hitting, passing, coverage, not just one area. You've got to keep getting better in all aspects."
SEASON OUTLOOK: The song remains the same. Nothing short of a state title will satisfy the talented Bears. "We always have that as the end goal," Riser said. "We have other goals along the way, but if you don't have that big goal in mind, you'll never get there. I truly believe it's within our reach again this year. We should be back there again."
COACH: Sharon Ours begins her first year with the Warriors. Ours will be assisted by Scott Mick and 2012 American Spirit Academy graduate Madison Capito. "There was nobody to coach them," Ours said. "They were in the process of canceling the season so I called some parents and asked them if they could help." Asked if she saved the season, Ours said, "Let's wait and see how things go first."
LAST SEASON: The Warriors finished last year with a record of 5-8. They won their league tournament title.
LETTERMEN LOST: The Warriors will be without the services of four seniors lost to graduation, including Capito, Samantha Catalano, Sydney Tatgenhorst and Kailan Allison.
LETTERMEN BACK: Two returning lettermen for the Warriors are senior Susan Blystone (setter) and sophomore Taylor Mick (hitter). Also in the mix are: senior Karissa Mishler, juniors Emily Smith, Darcy Olmstead and Calista Greene, sophomore Andrea Ullom, freshmen Shalya Ours, Hannah Louk and Madison Derenburger and eigth grader Hannah Milhoun.
TEAM STRENGTH: "We started out with seven players," Ours said. "I had to go out and solicit some help. We've got really good serving from Carissa, Emily and Taylor, and Susan can set from wherever she is on the court."
TEAM CHALLENGE: "We've got some young players," Ours said. "They need some time playing together. We've got two girls that have never touched a ball as well. But, overall, everyone is working hard and really coming along."
SEASON OUTLOOK: "We want to see improvement throughout the year," Ours said. "We've got some dedicated girls who come to practice every day and really work hard. We just want to continue to progress and keep getting better."