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Howard County 2021 volleyball preview

A preview of the 2021 Howard County volleyball season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch.
A preview of the 2021 Howard County volleyball season, with team-by-team capsules and players to watch. (Nate Pesce/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The volleyball season this past spring featured two undefeated squads facing off in the county championship game.

Reservoir and Howard dominated the local competition throughout the shortened regular season, which was postponed by six months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Gators, led by Player of the Year Kayla Browne, defeated the Lions in the final to earn the county crown.

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This season, the county’s coaches expect Reservoir and Howard to once again be the best teams in the league, while Atholton, Marriotts Ridge, River Hill and Centennial are expected to have competitive squads.

While fall sports have returned to their normal spot in the calendar this year, the volleyball season will not be void of coronavirus restrictions.

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In addition to an intra-county schedule, Howard’s volleyball teams will be more impacted by the school system’s coronavirus restrictions than the outdoor sports. Masks will be required for volleyball athletes, coaches and spectators with the exception of the players actively participating.

The regular season starts with a full slate of games on Sept. 3 and finishes Oct. 30. The MPSSAA volleyball playoffs begin Nov. 4 and end Nov. 18.

Here’s a look at the 14 county teams entering the 2021 season:

Atholton

Atholton's #4 Kyndall Mason returns service in game 2. Volleyball match between Marriotts Ridge and Atholton Wednesday March 24, 2021 at Marriotts Ridge High School. Marriotts Ridge won the match 2-0.
Atholton's #4 Kyndall Mason returns service in game 2. Volleyball match between Marriotts Ridge and Atholton Wednesday March 24, 2021 at Marriotts Ridge High School. Marriotts Ridge won the match 2-0. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

Coach: Larry Schofield (12th season overall)

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Spring 2021 record: 3-3

Returning starters: Six

Top players: Seniors Kelly He (S) and Kyndall Mason (OH); junior Annie Zhou (OH).

First serve: Schofield said it will be important for his five talented underclassmen to quickly pick up the new offensive and defensive systems. He’s relying on captains Mason, He and Zhou to continue to help bring along the younger players.

Centennial

Centennial's #1 Mailihn Godschall returns a serve. Volleyball match between Howard and Centennial at Centennial High School Wednesday March 17, 2021. Howard won the match 2 games to 0.
Centennial's #1 Mailihn Godschall returns a serve. Volleyball match between Howard and Centennial at Centennial High School Wednesday March 17, 2021. Howard won the match 2 games to 0. (Jeffrey F. Bill)

Coach: Michael Bossom (20th season overall)

Spring 2021 record: 6-4

Returning starters: Five

Top players: Senior Kendall Kreidel (MH); juniors Brianna Bossom (S), Abi Griffin (OH) and Caleigh Kim (L); sophomore Mailinh Godschall (OH).

First serve: While Centennial has five of its seven starters from this past spring returning, the Eagles are still a young team with most of its roster made up of sophomores and juniors. Bossom said serve and pass, as well as defense, will be his team’s strengths this season.

Glenelg

Glenelg #2 Sarah Parker returns service in game 2. Howard County tournament quarterfinal matchup between Reservoir and Glenelg volleyball Wednesday April 7, 2021 at Reservoir High School. Reservoir won the match 2-0.
Glenelg #2 Sarah Parker returns service in game 2. Howard County tournament quarterfinal matchup between Reservoir and Glenelg volleyball Wednesday April 7, 2021 at Reservoir High School. Reservoir won the match 2-0. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Jason Monjes (ninth season)

Spring 2021 record: 3-4

Returning starters: Four

Top players: Seniors Sarah Parker (DS/L/OH) and Sydney Yoon (L/DS); sophomores Mackenzie Calhoun (OH/S) and Lindsey Kelley (S/RS).

First serve: Monjes is looking forward to watching his team improve as the season progresses. He said the Gladiators will rely on the leadership of captains Yoon and Parker this fall.

Hammond

Hammond's Safi Hampton spikes ball past a group of Centennial defenders in a game during the 2019 season.
Hammond's Safi Hampton spikes ball past a group of Centennial defenders in a game during the 2019 season. (Terrance Williams/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Anne Corey (ninth season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-6

Returning starters: Four

Top players: Seniors Jenna Kreh (S), Rylal Koroma (MH) and Erin Peters (RS); junior Safi Hampton (OH).

First serve: The Golden Bears won four games this past spring with two wins over Wilde Lake and two victories against Oakland Mills. Corey believes Hampton’s time playing club volleyball combined with Kreh and Peters’ experience as three-year varsity players and Koroma’s athleticism gives her team some dynamic skills.

Howard

Howard #41 Ayanna Pharoah saves volley. Howard County Championship Volleyball Match at Howard High School featuring Howard against Reservoir, Thursday April 15, 2021. Reservoir won the match and county championship 2 games to 1.
Howard #41 Ayanna Pharoah saves volley. Howard County Championship Volleyball Match at Howard High School featuring Howard against Reservoir, Thursday April 15, 2021. Reservoir won the match and county championship 2 games to 1. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Allison McCoy (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 10-1 (county runner-up)

Returning starters: Four

Top players: Seniors Ayanna Pharoah (S) and Tyller Williams (MH); juniors Corinne Chau (OH) and Kelenna Onukwugha (OH).

First serve: Howard was the second-best team in the county during the spring 2021 season, with its only loss coming against Reservoir in the championship match. McCoy said her team’s strength will be its versatile hitters and overall team chemistry.

Long Reach

The Long Reach volleyball team in a huddle during a game against Mt. Hebron on March 29, 2021.
The Long Reach volleyball team in a huddle during a game against Mt. Hebron on March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Erik Groch (fourth season)

Spring 2021 record: 2-9

Returning starters: Five

Top players: Seniors Isabella Mora (OH), Mia Rubio (L) and Kailey Young (OH); sophomore Hayley Norton (S).

First serve: Groch said experience is his team’s biggest strength, as the Lightning have five starters coming back from the spring 2021 season. He also said the leadership of captains Mora and Rubio will be vital both on and off the court this fall.

Marriotts Ridge

Marriotts Ridge's Rhisen Davis puts a shot between Glenelg's Maddie Myers (L) and Katie Laport in the first game. Marriotts Ridge defeats visiting Glenelg 3-0 in a 2019 volleyball match.
Marriotts Ridge's Rhisen Davis puts a shot between Glenelg's Maddie Myers (L) and Katie Laport in the first game. Marriotts Ridge defeats visiting Glenelg 3-0 in a 2019 volleyball match. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Jamie Bullock (eighth season overall)

Spring 2021 record: 7-4

Returning starters: Three

Top players: Juniors Rhisen Davis (OH), Leah Liu (OH) and Vivian O’Brien (OH).

First serve: After a solid spring 2021 campaign, the Mustangs return only three starters after graduating five key players. Among the returners are talented outside hitters Davis, Liu and O’Brien. Bullock said the key for her young team will be mental toughness throughout the season.

Mt. Hebron

The Mt. Hebron volleyball team in a huddle during its game against Long Reach on March 29, 2021.
The Mt. Hebron volleyball team in a huddle during its game against Long Reach on March 29, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Israel Carunungan)

Coach: Tina Catanach (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 4-5

Returning starters: Four

Top players: Senior Emma Kate Bates (OH); sophomores Ava Bradley (OH) and Caroline Zheng (L).

First serve: The 2019 Howard County champion Vikings are hoping to get back to their place near the top of the county after a season this past spring that was hindered by the pandemic. Catanach is excited about her young team, and she believes overcoming adversity and making in-game adjustments will be the key for the Vikings this fall.

Oakland Mills

Oakland Mills' Zhenzhu Nelson competes during the volleyball game against Long Reach at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia on Thursday, September 27, 2018.
Oakland Mills' Zhenzhu Nelson competes during the volleyball game against Long Reach at Oakland Mills High School in Columbia on Thursday, September 27, 2018. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Alison Mariano (first season)

Spring 2021 record: 0-8

Returning starters: Six

Top players: Seniors Paige McPhilips (MH/MB), Zhenzhu Nelson (OH) and Shanai Smith (OH).

First serve: In her first season as the Scorpions’ head coach, Mariano said consistency is vital for her team this fall. The Scorps have experienced hitters in Nelson, McPhillips and Smith to pair with a group of other players in new positions. Nelson, who opted out of the spring 2021 season, was a first-team All-County selection in her first two years at Oakland Mills, finishing third and first in kills among county players as a freshman and sophomore, respectively.

Reservoir

Reservoir Volleyball Team celebrates winning game three 15-11 to win the County Championship. Howard County Championship Volleyball Match at Howard High School featuring Howard against Reservoir, Thursday April 15, 2021.
Reservoir Volleyball Team celebrates winning game three 15-11 to win the County Championship. Howard County Championship Volleyball Match at Howard High School featuring Howard against Reservoir, Thursday April 15, 2021. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Coach: Carole Ferrante (10th season overall)

Spring 2021 record: 10-0 (county champion)

Returning starters: Six

Top players: Seniors Samiha Foster (OH) and Jessica Rothermel (S); juniors Gabby Allen (L), Madison Hill (MB) and Kelsey Holmes (UT).

First serve: The Gators were the top team in the county this past spring, losing only three sets all season. Reservoir is losing Player of the Year Kayla Browne to graduation, but the majority of the Gators’ starting lineup from this past spring is returning. Ferrante expects her defense to be the team’s strength, and she’s been happy with her offense’s communication so far in practice.

River Hill

River Hill coach, Lynn Paynter calms her team during a time out in the second set of the Hawks' home match against Mt. Hebron Wednesday evening in Clarksville.
River Hill coach, Lynn Paynter calms her team during a time out in the second set of the Hawks' home match against Mt. Hebron Wednesday evening in Clarksville. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Coach: Lynn Paynter (12th season)

Spring 2021 record: 6-2

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Returning starters: Six

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Top players: Seniors Merina Billey (RS), Abby Chicorelli (RS) Shreeni Chikyala (MH), Erin Li (L) and Logan Maxwell (DS); junior Brooke Laumann (DS).

First serve: The Hawks were one of the top teams in the county this past spring, with their two losses coming against Centennial and county-champion Reservoir. Paynter has a large group of players returning this season, and she said the key to success will be team cohesion and determination.

Wilde Lake

Wilde Lake's Morgan Baird makes a diving save to keep the ball off the floor during a volleyball match against Reservoir at Wilde Lake High School on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.
Wilde Lake's Morgan Baird makes a diving save to keep the ball off the floor during a volleyball match against Reservoir at Wilde Lake High School on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (Brian Krista)

Coach: Kelly Vieira (third season)

Spring 2021 record: 0-9

Returning starters: Four

Top players: Seniors Morgan Baird (DS), Lydia Cybyk (OH), Veronica Goode (S) and Mia Swaby-Rowe (OH); freshman Jasmine Nelson (OH).

First serve: After going winless this past spring, Vieira hopes her team improves each practice and game this fall. The third-year coach said the Wildecats will rely on captains Goode and Cybyk to lead the squad and that so far in the preseason her team’s younger players have been ready to learn and improve.

Chapelgate

Coach: Stephanie Smith (sixth season)

2019 record: 3-7 IAAM B conference, 4-9 overall

Top players: Seniors Selah Holland (S) and Anyia Jones (OH); sophomore Amanda Morse (L); freshman Grace Salveron (S).

First serve: The IAAM didn’t have an official fall 2020 campaign, with its private schools participating in an “open season” amid the coronavirus pandemic. After competing in the IAAM’s B Conference in 2019, the Yellowjackets are in the C Conference this fall. Holland is the team’s captain, and Smith said her leadership and overall team chemistry will be vital to the Yellowjackets’ success.

Glenelg Country

Coach: Shalom Omo-Osagie (second season)

2019 record: 4-4 IAAM C Conference, 5-10 overall

Top players: Seniors Amber Garcia (S) and Ellie Oyebode (OH); sophomore Tiffany Blake (OH).

First serve: Captains Garcia, Oyebode and Trinity Skidmore will be vital for the Dragons as senior leaders. Omo-Osagie, a former Bowie State middle blocker, said communication will be key for her team this fall and that defense will be the Dragons’ strength.

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