Volleyball Preseason Top 15 Poll

For The Baltimore Sun

1. Arundel

Coach: Ashley Yuscavage

Last season: 15-4, No. 2

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A state semifinals

Outlook: The Wildcats only lost one starter from a team that came on at the end of last season. Yuscavage said this year’s team works hard, and there’s tons of talent from a loaded bench. First-team All-Metro setter Alicia Eldredge is back. Anne Arundel County will be tough again this year, but look for Arundel to push for another visit to College Park for the state tournament. The Wildcats certainly have the firepower to return.

2. Atholton

Coach: Rob Moy

Last Season: 14-4, No. 1

Postseason: Won Class 3A state championship

Outlook: The Raiders had a magical season last year and return a nucleus that should contend for the Class 3A title again. The team lost two seniors, but returns a lot of quality, including second-team All-Metro outside hitter Lisa Zoch, now a junior. Outside hitter Brooke Mason and middle hitter Kelly Simons, both seniors, will also be counted on to lead the team. One of Atholton’s strengths last year was its chemistry, and if the Raiders can find that again, they should go back to College Park.

3. Broadneck

Coach: Tracey Regalbuto

Last season: 8-7, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A East second round

Outlook: Regalbuto is in a great position because she has a team that is both young and experienced. The Bruins started two freshmen last season, and this season they will only carry two seniors and two juniors on the roster. Broadneck had some weak spots last year, but Regalbuto is confident she’s filled those holes. Look for Broadneck to push South River and Arundel for supremacy in Anne Arundel County.

4. Howard

Coach: Grant Scott

Last season: 14-3, No. 5

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A North Section II final

Outlook: The Lions return a lot from last year, but they also lost a few key pieces from an explosive team, including two All-Howard County performers. Luckily for Scott, a lot of quality experience returns from a team that tied for the county championship, including outside hitters Anna Jezerski and Madison Paige, both seniors. If the Lions can fill the few holes they have, they should be the favorite in Howard County again.

5. Notre Dame Prep

Coach: Jim Isphording

Last season: 11-8, No. 6

Postseason: Won IAAM A championship

Outlook: On paper, it would appear that this could be a down year for the Blazers, who were decimated by graduation. Isphording, however, said he likes the way the team is coming together. It returns some experience, with junior starters Julia Franzoni and Sarah Rose returning, but will be relying on a group of underclassmen who Isphording said will push the seniors as the season progresses. If the Blazers can survive a tough out-of-conference schedule, they should be the favorites in the A Conference.

6. Westminster

Coach: Ed Benish

Last season: 11-5, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 3A West first round

Outlook: The Owls were one of the surprise teams in the area last season, but they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. Westminster returns Jilienne Widener, the Carroll County Player of the Year and a second-team All-Metro pick as a freshman, and she will lead the team. Benish said he likes what he sees from his team, and the Owls appear to be the team to beat in an otherwise balanced Carroll County.

7. South River

Coach: Maureen Carter

Last season: 17-1, No. 3

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A East final

Outlook: The Seahawks ran the table in the regular season last year before getting upset by Arundel in the regional final. The team returns a good core, led by junior outside hitters Savannah Doctor and Erin Canter, who will power the offense. This junior-dominated team will also field two good setters in juniors Emily Speciale and Caitlyn Houck. Look for the Seahawks to push Arundel and Broadneck for the regional title.

8. Liberty

Coach: Mike Rainbow

Last season: 8-7, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 2A West second round

Outlook: Rainbow returns after a one-year absence, and that alone should make this team better. He described his troops as being “green,” but said there’s a lot of talent. Junior outside hitter Lydia Leiner returns, and should lead the offense along with versatile sophomore Ali Whitworth. Again, this is another case of how quickly the team comes together. Still, Liberty will be a big factor in the Carroll County race this season.

9. Centennial

Coach: Mike Bossom

Last season: 12-6, No. 11

Postseason: Lost in Class 3A East Section I final

Outlook: Expectations are always high at Centennial, but this year they could be realized by a team that should push Atholton and Howard for the Howard County title. The team returns senior Emily Przybyla, a setter, and she will be surrounded by a good supporting cast, featuring junior outside hitter Jackie Sterenberg and senior middle hitter Alex Stanislavsky. A lack of height could be a problem, but there’s plenty of quality players to make up for that. If the team can find some consistency, it might find itself in College Park for the first time since 2012.

10. Severna Park

Coach: Tim Dunbar

Last season: 10-6, No. 12

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A East Section I final

Outlook: The Falcons, who will play in a brand-new gym this year at their newly rebuilt school, will be good, and should continue to get better as the season goes on. Severna Park will feature a lot of talent, but it’s raw talent. Dunbar will carry two freshmen on the varsity team, and he also got two out-of-state transfers who should help. How quickly they jell with the nucleus that’s already there will tell a lot about how Severna Park does this season.

11. River Hill

Coach: Lynn Painter

Last season: 3-13, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 3A East first round

Outlook: The Hawks had a down year last season with a young team, but should rebound this season. Junior Heidi Li will lead the offense, which will feature a lot of experience. The Hawks will also benefit from a successful junior-varsity team from last year. River Hill dropped in classification to Class 2A this season, which should help. If the Hawks get off to a fast start, they could find themselves in College Park in March.

12. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Scott Rombach

Last season: 12-7, unranked

Postseason: Lost in IAAM A semifinals

Outlook: The Cavaliers return a good core from a team that competed well in the tough IAAM A Conference last year. Spalding will be led by senior setter Sarah Couch and sophomore Jacey Lewis, and how fast they develop will tell a lot about how the team does. Rombach likes the leadership he is seeing from Lewis, who should be the leader of the offense as an outside hitter. Spalding has a challenging out-of-league schedule, but that should only help to make the team better.

13. Dulaney

Coach: Cary Lyon

Last season: 10-6, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 4A North Section I final

Outlook: The Lions had an uncharacteristically rough season last year, but Lyon likes the youth of the team. How fast they jell will tell a lot about the team’s fortune this year. Outside hitter Aja Irving, and setter Kathryn Parler, both juniors, will provide the leadership for the team. Lyon said that serving and defense will be strengths for the team, but depth could be a problem. Look for a bounce-back season at Dulaney.

14. Century

Coach: Brian Trumbo

Last season: 9-10, unranked

Postseason: Lost in Class 2A West final

Outlook: The Knights made a run in the playoffs last season after a sluggish start, and Trumbo said the experience has them hungry to build on their success. Like many teams in the area, the Knights will carry only four seniors and will need to develop a good supporting cast around All-Carroll County performer Melissa Bonzelet. Century plays in a tough region with defending state champion Williamsport and archrival Liberty, but the Knights should be in the mix at the end of the year.

15. Hereford

Coach: Dave Schreiner

Last season: 17-2, No. 9

Postseason: Lost in Class 2A state semifinal

Outlook: The Bulls return most of the team that competed for a state title last year, and could be even better this year. The offense will be led by outside hitter Maggie May, a junior, and her sister McKenna May, a senior middle hitter. The Bulls will also benefit from better competition in Baltimore County Division I this season, and Schreiner is confident that this defensive team will have an improved offense. Look for Hereford to make a run at another trip to the state tournament.

Others considered: C.M. Wright (11-4), Glenelg (7-8), Manchester Valley (12-4), Mount de Sales (9-9), Poly (12-1), St. Paul’s (15-2).

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