Published: Aug 11, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Aug 10, 2012 04:42 PM
Volleyball is always a strong suit of western Wake teams, both public and private. But many of the top players from a year ago have graduated, leaving some intrigue this year as to which teams and which players will take an extra step up. Green Hope (24-2):
The Falcons shared the conference crown with Apex, then went all the way to the 4A East final before losing 3-2 to Wilmington Hoggard. Green Hope loses its top two first team all-conference players but returns many crucial pieces to last year’s team, including seniors Madison Brown (141 kills) Jordan Feuerhelm (139) and Rayna Yvars (81).
Senior Julie Ren and junior Carolina Neideffer are two other Falcons who received plenty of playing time last year and will be counted on again. Apex (19-5):
The powerhouse Cougars welcome a new coach as Emily Regan comes in from Franklinton. Apex is without last year’s conference player of the year, Megan Gravley, but brings back senior Megan Hooks (101 kills), senior Melissa Mayfield, junior Brianna Belicic (99) and two sophomores who started last season – Ally Beckman and Anna Patrick. Holly Springs (12-7):
Holly Springs was third in the league, its highest since joining the Tri-Nine, and the Golden Hawks seem poised for the future as sophomore Mackenzie Reaves returns from a first team all-conference season, along with classmate Jaclyn Brewington.
Senior Morgan Barker provides key defensive help, while junior Kaelyn Dyson provides a tall block. Panther Creek (10-11):
The Catamounts are looking to make their fourth consecutive trip to the playoffs, but it won’t be easy after losing several two- and three-year starters. Junior Katherine Kruse and senior Lauren Tuttle are the top returners. Cary (13-9):
The Imps have their own postseason streak – six years and counting – and graduated just three players from last year’s team. This year’s group will be led by setter Rachel Weisz, a senior, and Leah Blackley. Fuquay-Varina (12-10):
The Bengals made the postseason last year as a wild-card team and return three-year starter Dana Lingenfelser, a senior, and junior Abby Findley from the first team all-conference list. Coach Jeff Pagel returns for his second year, and the Bengals have never made the playoffs two years in a row. Middle Creek (6-14):
The Mustangs won just three conference games last year but return many of last year’s top contributors, including one of the best players in the conference in senior Ashley Battle. The Virginia Tech recruit registered 212 kills to go with 126 blocks.
Sophomores Katie McCullough, Rachael Smith and senior Emily Schmid also return. Athens Drive (3-17):
Jen Reeder moves up from assistant to head coach this year and takes over a Jaguars team that lacked experience a year ago. Only two players graduated from last year’s team, while junior Rachel Kinsey returns after being named second team all-conference a year ago. Lee County (5-17):
The Yellow Jackets placed one player on first team all-conference last year but lost her to graduation.NCISAA schools Grace Christian (28-5):
The 2A state runner-up has come a long way in coach Rita Stubbs’ tenure, in which she’s 48-14 in two seasons. The Eagles graduated just one player from last year’s team and bring back co-captain Lydia Rooth and classmate Skyler Dascombe, a senior. Cary Academy (23-9):
The Chargers have had one of the best volleyball programs in the area over the past three years, making it to the NCISAA 3A semifinals in each of the last four seasons, including two runner-up finishes.
Senior setter Elizabeth Carlton and junior Moriah Smith (376 kills) return to a program that is 91-13 over the last three seasons. Cary Christian (17-7):
The Lady Knights finished exactly 17-7 for the second straight year, finishing second in the Eastern Plains Independent Conference behind undefeated 2A champ St. David’s.