Scouting report: New to the program, Corey isn't quite familiar with what she has on her hands at Hammond just yet, but likes what she has seen so far.

"This looks like it's going to be a very competitive team this year, based on what the kids have been saying we have more talent this year than we've had in some time," she said.

Chervenak was the team's best setter (144 assists) and server (24 aces on 93 percent serving) last season. Loayza, who contributed 138 digs last season, will be missed as much for her senior leadership as her defense.

Key number: 53. Kills contributed by Balkarova, the Golden Bears' team leader, last season.

Howard

2012 record: 6-7, 10-8, 3A East regional finalist

Coach: Grant Scott, second season (12th overall)

Returning starters: 5

Key losses: RS Kristen Flint*

Top returners: Seniors Sydney Biniak* (OH) and Maya Hairston (MH); junior Hanna Webster (S).

Top newcomers: Senior Elizabeth Berg (L).

Scouting report: Although Flint was an all-county first-teamer last year, she was the only senior on the Lions' roster last year, so this year's team should be able to take a step forward. Biniak looks to be one of the most dangerous players in the league, while Hairston (52 kills, 19 blocks) will provide a strong bookend. Webster — a 5'10" setter who contributed 327 assists, 85 digs, 36 aces (93.6 percent serving) and 13 blocks — could be among the best at her position in the league. Berg will see an expanded role this season and should give the Lions' defense a boost.

Key number: 33. Years since Howard's last regional championship.

Long Reach

2012 record: 2-11, 4-12

Coach: Frank Valenza, first season

Returning starters: 2

Key losses: OH Cailin Fredrickson, S Shelby Fredrickson and MH Jennifer Riling

Top players: Seniors Lexxianna Zolincoffer (OH), McKenzie Langford (S), Madison Basham (OH/RS) and Heather McKay (DS).

Scouting report: Losing the Fredrickson twins is a very tough blow for the Lightning and first-year coach Valenza. Cailin is now playing for University of Massachusetts Boston. But Long Reach will at least have an experienced senior class.