Duneland Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Ali Ostrom, Sr., MH; Sarah Tarnowski, Sr., OH/L.
Outlook: The Trojans lost 94 percent of their kills and 98 percent of their assists from last season. Coach TR Harlan is eager to see his new crop of players perform this season.
Players to watch: Alyssa Kvarta, Jr., S; Kaley Rainford, Sr., OH; Courtney Covaciu, Sr. OH; Abby Kvachkoff, Sr., MH; Meagan Sajman, Sr., RS.
Outlook: Kvarta is one of the best setters in the state and leads a team that graduated one from the sectional starting roster. The speed of defensive specialists Taylor Sabato and Alyssa Mazur helps keep C.P.’s defense as prolific as its offense. “I think because we know we have a lot of talent, we need to be continuing to build,” coach Alison Duncan said.
Players to watch: Tori Gardenhire, So., MH; Brooke Renner, Jr., MH; Megan Malatestinic, Sr., OH; Taylor Ellis, Jr., L; Danielle Ellis, Jr., DS
Outlook: The Indians surprised a few in the DAC last season, and even more earning their way to a semistate berth. Five graduated from that team, but the JV last year was 30-0, so those coming in haven’t lost a step.
Players to watch: Kenzie Haite, Jr., S; Danielle Plank, Sr., L; Clair Marshall, Sr., OH
Outlook: The Slicers start a new era this season now that Taylor Lebo is playing at Indiana University. Coach Erin Parker is taking four freshmen on the varsity squad this year and expects the youngsters to adapt quickly.
Players to watch: Myranda Harris, Sr., OH; Ashley Hansbury, Sr., L; Riana Todd, Sr., S.
Outlook: The Pirates have everyone from the 2012 squad coming back. Maya Griffin missed the end of last season with a broken thumb and Victoria Gaines missed all but the last month recovering from knee surgery.
Players to watch: Brooke Westphal, Jr., OH; Makayla Adams, Sr., MH; Casey Neulieb, Jr., DS/L
Outlook: Losing Sarah Puckett to graduation will be a blow, but Westphal is ready to step up and fill the void.
Players to watch: Mariah Wright, Sr., OH; Josi Auksel, Sr., MH; Abby Alexander, Jr., L.
Outlook: The Indians are looking to build on their postseason success from last year and coach Brian Zofkie thinks he has just the team to do it. "I think we shocked a lot of people last year, and I think we're going to continue to build on that," Zofkie said.
Players to watch: Noelle Eveland, Sr., OH; Kate Bontraeger, Jr., OH; Anna Walls, Sr., DS
Outlook: The Vikings have lost two Division I players (Kate Workman, Tarrah Lasky) in the last two years, but coach Katie Lenard believes she has the talent to absorb the losses. "It's a challenge to keep replacing them, but it speaks to the kind of program that we have," Lenard said.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Player to watch: Sara Kruszynski, Sr., S
Outlook: Four-year starter Kruszynski returns as part of what coach Stephanie Vargas calls, “still the shortest team in the state.” The Pioneers make up for it in volleyball smarts and continue to make passing a priority. “What I really like is that they are attempting the more difficult skills, even though it’s still early in the season,” Vargas said.
Players to watch: Brianna Mingerson, Sr., OH; Vanessa Skierkiewicz, Sr., OH; Amber Earl, Jr., S.
Outlook: Gavit’s successful Class of 2013 graduated nine from last season. There are five seniors now who have set a goal for another conference title, but it’ll mean growing up and gaining experience quickly.
Players to watch: Precious Perkins, Sr., MH; Joy Perkins, Jr., OH; Kennedy Harwell, Sr., S; Daisy Zamora, So., OH/S;
Outlook: The Wildcats are in their second year under coach Mary Hernandez. With track athletes joining the team, their speed and footwork has improved and impressed. “We’re younger this year than we were last year, but we’re passing a lot better, we’re definitely hitting much better and we’re a more all-around team," Hernandez said.
Players to watch: Amanda Colvin, Jr., OH; Kendria Huff, Jr., MH.
Outlook: The Governors will likely struggle early thanks to heavy losses from the roster. Morton returns just two starters. Remaining a shorter team, the Govs hope that continued progress will keep them in the conference hunt.
Greater South Shore Conference
Players to watch: Emily Johnson, Jr., S; Carly Cappello, Jr., OH; Asya Hobbs, Sr., MH; Carissa Jones, Sr., OH.
Outlook: The Warriors return their leaders in five statistical categories: assists (Johnson), kills and digs (Cappello), aces (Jones) and blocks (Hobbs). The addition of 6-foot-1 freshman Brittany Anderson rounds out a tall front line.
Outlook: Bonnie Williams will be a first-year coach with the Warriors. Calumet lost in the sectional semifinals last season to new GSSC foe Hanover Central.
Outlook: Erin Zeller has been tabbed to coach the Wildcats as they make their move into the Greater South Shore Conference. Hanover Central graduated hefty talent after its 2012 Porter County Conference Championship season.
Outlook: Kristy Hite will have the helm for the Eagles as they hope to improve on their 9-15 season. Lake Station lost to eventual champ Wheeler in the River Forest Sectional in 2012.
Players to watch: Sabrina Browm, Sr., MH; Zoya Ganz, Jr., OH; Camille Burnett, Sr., S; Haley Mellon, Sr., L.
Outlook: The Blazers finished with a losing record last season and still won a regional championship. Second-year coach Jan Fitzpatrick hopes to build on that postseason success and get Marquette back to its winning ways. "I could really begin to feel the kids take pride in their program, and they quit worrying about the comparisons to past teams," she said.
Players to watch: Emma Hollopeter, Sr., L; Kylie Duhammel;, Jr., MH; Alyssa Hoevker, Jr., OH.
Outlook: North Newton returns three players that had significant time on the court and just two more from the sectional roster. The Spartans aren’t calling this rebuilding, but they’re in a continual learning stage.
Players to watch: Alexis Nuzzo, Jr., L; Caylyn Beller, Sr., MH.
Outlook: The Ingots lost only one starter. Four senior leaders are returning. “We’ve never been a school that’s had a strong offense,” coach Patty Sparks said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people with a threatening offense.”
Players to watch: Belle Bravo, So., S; Jordynn Parks, So., MH; Allie Stevenson Jr., L.
Outlook: Shannon Doyle has graduated and now the Wheeler youth movement is in full effect. Bravo and Parks earned valuable experience last year and have the Bearcats set for the next three years. "I preach to them that we don't rebuild, we add on," coach Alisha Polite said.
Players to watch: Kaylyn Anderson, Sr., OH; Bri Blackwell, Sr., OH; Mollie Lovasko, Sr., L.
Outlook: The Oilers are senior heavy and tall in the middle. Freshman setter Courtney Blackwell will lead them. She’s the younger sister of standout outside hitter Bri Blackwell.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Players to watch: Kelly Wojciechowski, Sr., OH; Lauren Stazinski, Sr., MH; Maria Nicksic, Sr., OH/RS; Marissa Beemsterboer, Sr., DS.
Outlook: Wojciechowski and Stazinski are three-year varsity players and Nicksic stands 6-foot-4 and is a tough outside player. The 59ers are using every second of preseason evaluation to find the right fit before the season starts. “This year it’s going to be the passers and the hitters who will dominate," coach Julie Wiejak said.
Players to watch: Lisette Roldan, Sr., OH; Talia Roldan, Fr., S/MH; Hannah Miller, Jr., OH; Erica Kik, So., MH.
Outlook: Coach Kristi Hoese made the move from Hobart to Griffith. Talia Roldan stands at 6-foot-1 and could be serving to her sister, Lisette, a multisport athlete with big jumps.
Outlook: Matt Clark leads a team that hopes to improve from its 6-21 season in 2012. The Trojans lost in the quarterfinal round of the sectional to eventual semistate team Lake Central.
Players to watch: Caylie Pruitt, Sr., OH; Geena Lammertin, Sr., S; Zoe Wilson, Jr., MH; Rhylee Beshears, Jr. DS.
Outlook: New coach Justine Verbich takes over a team with a ton of depth and experience. Pruitt had a special junior season and Wilson was a force as a sophomore on a team that graduated only one senior.
Players to watch: Gabby Martin, Sr., OH; Danielle Ruesken, Sr., MH; Lauren Stokes, Sr., S; Lexi Eggert, Sr., L.
Outlook: New coach Adair Woford takes over a team that graduated two seniors. This team impressed in the second half of the NCC season last year and that experience will carry over. Filled with talented senior leadership, the Kougars could be a surprise.
Players to watch: Ashley DeBoers, Jr., OH; Hunter Jusevitch, Jr., DS; Mallory Slavis, Sr., S
Outlook: Of the six graduated Red Devils, three were starters. Their never-say-die mentality keeps this a hard-fighting team.
Players to watch: Shannon Farrell, Sr., OH; Elizabeth Kloos, Sr., MH; Morgan Switalla, Sr., S.
Outlook: The Mustangs return three players who have started for the last three years. Munster lost a five-set OT nail biter to eventual semistate qualifier Lake Central, and that memory isn’t lost on anyone. A tough early schedule will test the ‘Stangs mettle.
Porter County Conference
Players to watch: Nicole Malouhos, Sr., MH; Kennedy Starcevich, Jr., DS/L; Sky Hall, Sr., OH/DS; Lexi Thill, Jr., OH/DS; Carrie Kovacik, Jr., S.
Outlook: After taking over the Boone Grove girls basketball team this summer, coach Linda Eleftheri is eager to get started with a group of athletes that will likely play both sports. The Wolves graduated some talent last year, but Eleftheri is excited about the prospects of this season's team.
Players to watch: Natalie Kaczmarski, Sr., S; Lauren Carlson, Sr., MH; Sydney Marrs, Sr., MH; Katie Clemons, Sr., OH.
Outlook: Coach Kelly Dickensheets believes this is the quickest team she's had in her coaching career and is eager to speed up the offense. If the Hawks can avoid injuries, they could make a nice postseason run this year.
Players to watch: Ivette Muzquiz, Sr., OH; Jayla Crump, Jr., MH; Kaylee Heimberg, So., MH.
Outlook: With two of her best players splitting time between soccer and volleyball, coach Karyl Van Dyke is thrilled that the majority of her roster spent time playing club volleyball.
Players to watch: Naomi Culver, Jr., S; Alissa Tucker, Jr., OH.
Outlook: The Tigers look to bounce back from a three-win season and they'll do it under new coach Lindzy Curtis and just five players with varsity experience.
Players to watch: Alexis Perdue, Sr., MH; Courtney Maxwell, Jr., OH; Jessie Lee, Jr., S; Alexa Kartje, Jr., L.
Outlook: Matt Bien returns to the sidelines after spending last season coaching the Morgan boys program. Bien took the program back over in March and spent the entire summer working with a talented Cherokee squad.
Players to watch: Briana Satoski, Sr., OH; Katelyn Tucker Sr., S; Kaitlyn Jackson, Sr., OH.
Outlook: Coach Ashley Rinker returns an experienced group this season that is eager for one last shot at postseason success.
Players to watch: Madeline Johnson, Sr., OH; Samantha Higgins, Sr., MH; Lauren Kleist So., OH; Marissa Brys Fr., MH.
Outlook: High expectations are the norm at Washington Township. Second-year coach Kevin Labaj has transitioned smoothly into the program and he'll rely on a combination of talent and experience this season.
Players to watch: Ashley McClintock, Sr., OH; Samantha Albers, Sr., OH
Outlook: The Blackhawks rejoin the PCC this season, but coach Omar Vasquez doesn't expect much of an impact. "We were playing all of these schools already. Now we have a chance to compete for something," he said.
Players to watch: Ally Rohn, Jr., OH/MH; Kaylie O’Binger, Jr., L; Cassie O’Binger, Jr., S; Olivia Johnston, Jr., MH
Outlook: The non-IHSAA school added several IHSAA teams to its schedule and can’t wait to play each one of them. The Patriots' defense is strong and will be for the next two seasons with five junior starters. They’re the defending National Association of Christian Athletes Division I champs.
Players to watch: Megan Buiter, Sr., OH; Courtney VanderMeer, Sr., RS; Calli Beezhold, Sr., MH.
Outlook: Laurissa Bowman is in her second year as the Knights’ coach, a team that lost one senior to graduation. Two new setters have joined the squad that will continue its aggressive on-court presence.
Players to watch: Bianca Krol, Sr., MH; Andrea Rivera, Sr., OH; Carissa Sullivan, Sr., S.
Outlook: Stephanie Reyna, a 2001 E.C. Central grad, takes over as coach. The team works well together, and if they can find some consistency, Reyna said she thinks it could be a beneficial year.
— Times sports reporters Paul Oren and Hillary Smith