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New era begins in Howard County volleyball

A new day is dawning in Howard County volleyball. With first-year coaches at seven of the 14 schools, Howard becoming the county's first 4A school and only three returning first-team all-county players, the potential for new storylines is great.

Led by two-time first-team all-county hitter Morgan Perry (148 kills, 243 digs last season), and first-year coach Jason Monjes, four-time state champion Glenelg is in good position to improve on last season's 10-3 league record. The Gladiators, who have also lost four times in the state championship match, will be bolstered by middle hitters Molly Calvert and Lauren Wright, and outside hitter Sarah Girard.

Perry's Columbia Volleyball Club team competed at nationals during the offseason, and Girard represented Team USA at an invitational tournament in China over the summer. All four players are athletic and stand 5'10" or taller.

"This is one of the most experienced teams that Glenelg will have," said Monjes, who has more than 17 years of coaching experience at the club, high school and college level. "Aside from Morgan Perry, Glenelg will have many offensive threats and will be a much more balanced and quicker team this year with great depth off the bench with the added club experience this past season."

Howard, which faces the daunting task of moving up to Class 4A — the biggest among Maryland schools — this season, is well-equipped for the challenge, with powerhouse hitter Sydney Biniak (166 kills, 168 digs, 68 aces) on the court.

Along with middle hitter Maya Hairston and junior setter Hanna Webster, the Lions — who went on a memorable playoff run to the 3A East regional finals last year — will have an imposing trio of near-six-footers.

Howard is "independent, confident, and dedicated to the team, not the individual," said coach Grant Scott, who is in his 12th year with the Lions.

The team that knocked Howard out of the playoffs last year — 14-time state champion Centennial — has never been one to overlook.

Middle hitter Jessie Link, who joins Perry and Biniak as the league's only returning all-county first-teamers, has developed tremendously in the past few seasons, posting a career year in 2012 with 112 kills and only 16 hitting errors.

Seniors Kristen Ritchie (109 kills) and Katie Havlik (64), and junior Meghan Kelley (169) combined for 342 more kills last season, but the Eagles will sorely miss Player of the Year Trisha Mockapetris (league-best 229 kills), who took Centennial back to the state finals last year.

"Losing Trisha and (setter) Lexi White-Torruellas meant losing strong leadership as well as volleyball skills," coach Larry Schofield said. "Bonding as a team, '15 hearts beating as one,' is crucial for our success."

Mt. Hebron (libero Mallory Baldwin and setter Megan Ross) and River Hill (libero Sydni Horner) each return all-county second team players and won ten matches last season, so those teams will also likely be in the mix for the county title.

And once that has been decided, Howard County teams will attempt to send a representative to the state finals for the 26th consecutive season. In fact, with Howard now classified as a 4A school, the county could potentially send three teams to a state championship match.

New coaches

Among the seven coaches who stepped down after last season, Hammond's Ken McLaughlin (19 years of experience) and Glenelg's Don Beall (nine years) were the most tenured. Beall, who coached the Gladiators to a state title in 2005 but was classified as an emergency coach, decided to leave the program after being asked to step down as basketball coach last winter, and McLaughlin hung up his coaching whistle due to family commitments.

Reservoir's Carole Ferrante, who led the Gators to the state finals in 2006 and a state championship one year later, steps down to focus on club volleyball after seven years, while Atholton's Dave Decker, Long Reach's Jacqueline Armstead and Oakland Mills' Dan Tucci had each been at their schools for six seasons. Decker, who coached Atholton to a win over Centennial in 2011 that ended a 49-match league win streak, is taking time off to raise his two young sons but says he will be back someday. Tucci also planned to continue coaching, and Armstead decided to step down to focus on work, her son Everett's sports and her recent engagement.

"I miss the girls like crazy and wish them the best of luck this year," she said.

Rob Moy, the new coach at Atholton, has been coaching since the early 1990s, and has significant experience coaching freshmen and JV at Centennial, as well as serving as an assistant at Goucher last season.

At Long Reach, Frank Valenza has coached lacrosse, wrestling, soccer and ice hockey for more than 25 years, but has never coached volleyball until now.

"I love to coach so I took the position," he said. "I Googled everything I needed to know about girls volleyball."

Jamie Bullock, the new Reservoir coach, played for Glenelg from 1995 to 1999, before playing club volleyball at East Carolina. She has 13 years of experience, including nine at South Central High in Greenville, NC.

Anne Corey, a math teacher who played high school volleyball in New York and club volleyball at Loyola University, is the new coach at Hammond. Shelby Rhodes, a health teacher at Oakland Mills Middle, played high school volleyball in North Carolina and has coached the Oakland Mills freshman team before taking over the varsity this year.

At Glenelg Country, Dennis Seibel takes over for Holly Cullum after one season.


A look at all 14 local teams as the season begins.

* 2012 First-team all-county; ^ 2012 Second-team all-county


2012 record: 9-4 league, 12-5 overall

Coach: Rob Moy, first season

Returning starters: 0

Key losses: L/S Naomi Burke, OH McKay Evans^, OH Natalie Alper^, S/RS Savannah Kelley, MH Sarah Wagoner, MH Taylor Combs and RS Laura Yawney.

Top returners: Seniors Grace Park (DS/S), Bridget Cheng (S), Jennifer Mandl (OH) and Jackson Schrickel (MH).

Top newcomers: Junior Olivia Na (S) and sophomore Julia Skibniewska (OH/MH).

Scouting report: With a new coach and no returning starters from last year's team, which featured eight seniors, Atholton is turning over a new leaf in 2013. Luckily, Moy has 20 years of coaching experience, and a talented senior class. Mandl (95.5 percent, 11 aces) is an excellent server, while Cheng saw varsity experience at the setter position last season. Two freshmen — Hope Kelly and Samantha Miller — were talented and club experienced enough to crack the varsity roster.

"We are rebuilding for a very bright present and future," Moy said.

Key number: 500. Kills tallied by the 2012 graduating class, of a team total of 515.


2012 record: 13-0, 18-1, county and 3A East regional champion, 3A state finalist

Coach: Larry Schofield, seventh season

Returning starters: 5

Key losses: OH Trisha Mockapetris* and S Lexi White-Torruellas*

Top returners: Seniors Jessie Link* (MH), Kristen Ritchie (OH/RS) and Katie Havlik (MH/RS); junior Meghan Kelley^ (OH).

Top newcomers: Junior Chloe Attram (MH/RS), sophomore Emily Allen (OH/RS) and freshman Camryn Allen (DS/OH).

Scouting report: The 14-time state champion Eagles have lost twice in the state finals in the past three seasons, which doesn't sit well in Ellicott City. Although Player of the Year Mockapetris and setter White-Torruellas (564 assists) will be tough to replace, Centennial returns as much experience as any team in the league. Link was a first-team all-county middle hitter and paired with Havlik gives the Eagles an intimidating front row. Ritchie and Kelley are both versatile and athletic, and a strong group of newcomers — Chloe Attram, Emily Allen and Camryn Allen — will help fill in the blanks.

Key number: 18. Consecutive matches won by Centennial last season before falling in the state finals to North Hagerstown.


2012 record: 10-3, 12-4, 2A South regional finalist

Coach: Jason Monjes, first season

Returning starters: 4

Key losses: S Camryn Long* and OH Erin Jollota

Top returners: Seniors Molly Calvert (MH) and Morgan Perry* (OH); juniors Sarah Girard (OH/RS) and Lauren Wright (MH).

Top newcomers: Junior Julia Berry (L); sophomores Rachael Girard (S) and Molly Jordan (MH/OH).

Scouting report: Sarah Girard's younger sister, Rachael, moves from libero to setter to replace Long, a graduated first-team all-county selection, while newcomer Berry will lead the defense as libero. Between Perry, Sarah Girard, Calvert and Wright, the Gladiators should be blessed with one of the most formidable offensive attacks in the league.

Key number: 114. Combined blocks by the trio of Calvert (50), Wright (36) and Perry (28) last season.


2012 record: 0-13, 1-15

Coach: Anne Corey, first season

Returning starters: 4

Key losses: L Marina Loayza

Top players: Seniors Shawntel King (S/OH), Meagan Hitesman (S/OH) and Nelli Balkarova (DOH); sophomore Catie Chervenak (S/DS).

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.


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.

Key number: 0. Trips to the state tournament in program history.

Marriotts Ridge

2012 record: 6-7, 9-8

Coach: Amanda Olsen, sixth season

Returning starters: 4

Key losses: L Julie Dixon* and MH Dana Koehler

Top returners: Seniors Christina Kormis (L/DS), Carolyn Keeney (MH) and Katie Smith (OH).

Top newcomers: Junior Anna Geier (MH); sophomore Rachel Dubbs (S/RS); freshman Gabby Peitsch (MH/OH).

Scouting report: With only three errors and 29 aces in 218 attempts, Dixon was arguably the league's best server last season, and also collected 266 digs. Koehler was second in the league with 42 blocks and led the team with 94 kills. But the Mustangs' cabinets have not been left bare. Keeney is a force at the net, with 28 blocks and 70 kills last season, and Smith was good for another 64 kills.

Key number: 72. Height, in inches, of Mustangs' freshman Gabby Peitsch.

Mt. Hebron

2012 record: 10-3, 10-5

Coach: Michael Moynihan, 12th season

Returning starters: 4

Key losses: OH Erin Walter, L Tish Carmona

Top returners: Seniors Marissa Duncan (MH), Mallory Baldwin# (L), Megan Ross# (S) and Lindsey Scepura (DS/S).

Top newcomers: Junior Reeana Richardson (RS/OH).

Scouting report: The Vikings graduated one of the league's most explosive hitters in Walter, but return a plethora of talent at the setter and defensive positions. Duncan could be one of the best middles in the league, and Richardson will also provide some offensive punch.

Key number: 8. Number of returning players from last year's Vikings' squad. Three have college commitments: Ross (Gettysburg), Duncan (UMBC) and Scepura (Frostburg/Salisbury).

Oakland Mills

2012 record: 2-11, 3-12

Coach: Shelby Rhodes, first season

Returning starters: 2

Key losses: L Allie Cable* and OH Daria Hypolite

Top returners: Seniors Heidi Larsen (S), Sam Slebodnik (MH) and Marilyn Steyert (RS/DS).

Top newcomers: Sophomore Courtney Wilhelm (RS).

Scouting report: Larsen already has a year of seasoning under her belt, with 194 setter assists in 2012, but the key will be her rapport with Slebodnik and Steyert at the net. Cable may have been the best defensive player to ever wear a Scorpions uniform, and Hypolite led her team with 98 kills.

Key number: 800. Approximate number of career digs for Cable, who now plays for Lebanon Valley College.


2012 record: 7-6, 9-7

Coach: Jamie Bullock, first season

Returning starters: 7

Key losses: S Iulia Tath and DS Alexa Kelley

Top returners: Seniors Hannah Pinion (OH), Paige Foley (S) and Imani Clayton (MH); junior Maddy Belt^ (RS).

Top newcomers: Teresa DePinto (DS) and Barbara Kelley (DS).

Scouting report: Carole Ferrante, who stepped down after last season, led the Gators to a new era of prosperity, including a state title in 2007. And now, first-year coach Bullock will try to keep the team rolling forward. The offense should be very solid, with Pinion, Clayton and Belt receiving serves from Foley. Two newcomers, DePinto and Kelley, should strengthen the defense.

Key number: 2. Win-loss differential of Reservoir last year in sets. The Gators won 35 sets and lost 33.

River Hill

2012 record: 10-3, 12-4

Coach: Lynn Paynter, fourth season

Returning starters: 4

Key losses: OH Cassidy Davis* and MH Taylor Thomas

Top players: Seniors Sydni Horner^ (DS), Keana Richards (MH) and Kalala Pines (S); sophomore Emily Luo (MH).

Scouting report: The 2013 season sees the parting of one Davis sister and the arrival of another. Cassidy, whose older sisters Caitlin and Kelly graduated in 2012, led the team with 184 kills last year as a senior. But Brianna Davis, a sophomore, will now continue the family legacy with the Hawks. Pines, who assisted on 399 kills last season, will still have strong offensive weapons, led by Richards (30 blocks, 65 kills) and Luo. Horner, who collected 206 digs last season, is one of the best defensive players in the league.

Key number: 13. Consecutive sets won by the Hawks last season prior to a playoff loss to Howard.

Wilde Lake

2012 record: 3-10, 3-11

Coach: Caitlin Williams, sixth season

Returning starters: 5

Key losses: OH Michaela Tummings^ and RS Krista Pecenka

Top returners: Senior Carly Jones (L); juniors Kelly Surkovich (OH/DS) and Katie Hines (RS); sophomore Meghan Morales (S).

Top newcomers: Sophomore Rebecca Chamblee (OH); freshman Carmen Freeman (MH).

Scouting report: Surkovich is an explosive hitter, with a team-high 71 kills last season. And she'll again be receiving sets from Morales, who started at setter as a freshman last season. Newcomers Chamblee and Freeman should add depth to the offense. "This year, my team is finding its strength in unity. They are a close knit group of girls with a common goal and a common determination to achieve it," Williams said. "With an emphasis on the positive, this team has the power and potential to do great things."

Key number: 220. Assists by Morales last season, third most among returning players.


2012 record: 1-8, 3-10

Coach: Jess Weakley, second season

Returning starters: 2

Key losses: MH Kelsey Wolinski, OH Clara Sevy, S Cecilia Casamento

Top players: Senior Hailee Winand (M/OH); junior Julia del Carmen (OH).

Top newcomers: Sophomore Jianna Casamento (S/RS); freshman Rachel del Carmen (L).

Scouting report: Casamento will be a welcome addition at the setter position, while Julia del Carmen's younger sister, Rachel, will help the Yellow Jackets on defense.

Key number: 2. Consecutive wins by the Yellowjackets to start the season last year.

Glenelg Country

2012 record: 6-8, 7-9

Coach: Dennis Seibel, first season

Returning starters: 2

Key losses: MH Ogechi Nwodim

Top players: Senior Cecilia Narrett (OH); junior Kendra Isaacs (S).

Scouting report: Nwodim, who registered 130 kills last season, will be missed by the Dragons, who advanced to the IAAM C Conference semifinals last season.

Key number: 74. Aces by Sarah Gibney last season, a county best. The setter also had 152 assists.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 2013 River Hill graduate Cassidy Davis was the last Davis sister to play for the Hawks. In fact, sophomore Brianna Davis will play varsity volleyball for River Hill this season.

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