Howard County has some of the premier volleyball players and teams in the Greater Baltimore area, consistently producing top teams year in and year out.
This year is no different with several programs including Howard, Centennial, Reservoir, River Hill and Glenelg bringing back marquee players.
2022 Howard County Times Player of the Year Safi Hampton from Hammond has graduated along with several other all-county performers from last year, but there are still several standout performers returning.
All 12 Howard County teams are split between Class 4A South, 3A South and 2A West. Reservoir is the county’s lone team in 4A South Region I. Glenelg, Mt. Hebron and Marriotts Ridge are in 3A South Region I; while Atholton, Long Reach, Oakland Mills, River Hill and Howard make up 3A South Region II. Centennial, Hammond and Wilde Lake are the remaining teams in 2A West Region II.
Postseason play begins with regional quarterfinals on Nov. 2-3 with the season concluding on Nov. 18 with the state championships taking place at Harford Community College’s APG Federal Credit Union Area.
Here is a look at the county teams:
Coach: Meghan Kulzer, first season
Last season: 3-11
Top returners: Senior Malia Phiasiripanyo (DS/L); junior Tatum Hall (OH); sophomore Sydnee Peters (RS).
Newcomers to watch: Sophomore Carly Tillman (MH); freshman Olivia Lewis (MH).
On the court: Hall will again be an integral part of the Raiders’ attack this season. Kelsey Mason and Phiasiripanyo will help Atholton in the back row, while Angel Zhou is another player expected to play a key role this season.
Coach’s outlook: “I think we have a really solid squad this season. I know how hard they work every day in practice and I’m confident that will translate on the court. I don’t think many teams will see us much of a threat but we are going to be a competitor this season.”
Coach: Mike Bossom, 24th season
Last season: 17-1, Howard County champion, Class 3A quarterfinalist
Top returners: Seniors Mailinh Godschall (OH) and Kaley MacLellan (MH).
Newcomers to watch: Juniors Joy Chen (S) and Simar Sidhu (L).
On the court: Godschall, a Duke commit is back for her final season and headlines the Eagles’ attack after being one of the county leaders in kills (229), digs (258) and aces (57). MacLellan also brings added experience and size for Centennial in the middle. Senior outside hitter Riley Middleton and senior setter Manroop Sidhu will also see increased roles.
Coach’s outlook: “We will improve throughout the year as we gain experience playing together.”
Coach: Stephanie Smith, seven season
Last season: 15-1, IAAM C Conference runner-up
Top returners: Seniors Chase Grant (MB) and Amanda Morse (L); juniors Madi James (OH) and Grace Salveron (S).
Newcomer to watch: Sophomore Jada Virgin.
On the court: Morse lead the Yellow Jackets’ defense last year with 316 digs, while Grant excelled offensively with 132 kills and seven block kills. James led all the outsider hitters in kills (223) and aces (68), adding more key experience. Salveron also set the tone for the offense with 379 assists and a team-high 94% serve percentage. Sophomores Nathalie Berkelaar and Londyn Camejo are each expected to make leaps this season as well.
Coach’s outlook: “We made it to the championship last year without any seniors on the team. Now, all of the players have returned stronger and more experienced from playing in the off-season. I am excited to see the level of play these girls are capable of. It will be a fun season to watch.”
Coach: Jason Monjes, 11th season
Last season: 7-8
Top returners: Seniors Lindsay Kelley (S), Liesl Walter (MB) and Lily Bae (DS/L); junior Olivia McDonough (DS/L).
Newcomers to watch: Junior Ilyssa Newman (MB); freshman Jessica Li (OH/S/DS).
On the court: Kelley, a Bridgewater College commit was a first team All-County performer each of the past two seasons and is expected to lead the Gladiators attack. Sophomores Isard Bernades and Avery Hubbard will be pin hitters along with Newman in the middle and Li also is expected to be a big contributor. Walter, Bae and McDonough give Glenelg great experience and stability defensively.
Coach’s outlook: “If Glenelg can stay healthy and the consistency and improvement continues, Glenelg can be one of the teams competing for the county championship and one of at least 12 teams in class 3A who own a state championship as we moved from 2A to 3A.”
Coach: Shalomo Omo-Osagie, fourth season
Last season: 12-3, IAAM C Conference champions
Top returners: Senior Tiffany Blakely (L); juniors Sherron Stanard (S/OPP), Zinnia Pickett (S) and Nancy Guo (OH).
Newcomer to watch: Junior Gabrielle Washington (MB).
On the court: The Dragons are moving up to the IAAM B conference and bring back several impactful players. Stanard and Pickett will be go-to options for setting up the offense, while Guo will be the top outside hitter. Blakely is transitioning to more of a defensive role anchoring the back row after being a power hitter her first three seasons. Washington, a transfer from Prince George’s County will provide great size in the middle, while Kennedy Cummins and CeCe Lazzari are both expected to provide added sparks.
Coach’s uutlook: “This season will bring pressure, from all fronts. But we will do what we do best and rise above it. It’s not all about winning, even though we all love winning. It’s about who these players become as the learn and grow as women. I can truly say I have a great and hard-working bunch. I have no doubt we will find our place in the B Conference, and we intend for it to be the top!”
Coach: John Livingston, first season
Last season: 8-8
Newcomers to watch: Junior Eleanora Watson (OH); sophomore Olivia Tran (OH/S/DS).
On the court: The Golden Bears graduated seven seniors and bring back a group that lacks much varsity experience. However, Watson and Tran have flashed in the preseason. Watson has been an excellent defender, developing as an outside hitter, while Tran has displayed positional versatility to play all over the court.
Coach’s outlook: “I hope to be competitive. I hope they can continue their progress under my systems and training. I have watched every game from last year and the competition we face is tough.”
Coach: Grant Scott, 20th season
Last season: 10-7, Class 3A East Region I finalist
Top returners: Senior Morgan Harris (L); junior Kaleigh Williams (MB).
On the court: Harris, an East Carolina commit is back to anchor the Lions’ defense after being named a second team All-County performer last year. Williams was also named second team All-County last year and gives Howard more key experience with several young players expected to take bigger roles.
Coach’s outlook: “We are a young team with strong senior leadership and loads of potential. It may take time, but if we continue to develop we will be a difficult team to beat as the season progresses.”
Coach: Jennifer Van Oosten, first season
Last season: 5-10
Top returners: Seniors Hayley Norton (S) and Allison Brown (OH); junior Addison Van Oosten (OH).
Newcomers to watch: Junior Brooke Gordon (MH) and sophomore Delaney Strawhorn (L).
On the court: Van Oosten led the Lightning offensively as a sophomore with 160 kills, named first team All-County, while both Brown and Norton were selected as honorable mention All-County as juniors. Gordon and Strawhorn are both expected to play key roles after excelling on junior varsity last year. Senior middle hitter Toni Shaw and junior right side/setter Gracie Close will provide Long Reach with added versatility throughout the court.
Coach’s outlook: “I am very excited about this upperclassmen-heavy team. We have 15 club players this season. The most players Long Reach has had to date. We have three returning All-County players and several new to varsity, that have played at the highest club level. We are a heavy hitter team with seven pins and four middles. We have been working on a winning team culture and are looking forward to very successful season.”
Coach: Jamie Bullock, sixth season
Last season: 10-5
Top returners: Juniors Eva Hull (S) and Katy Harbaugh (MH).
Newcomers to watch: Sophomores Saranya Medavarapu (RS) and Kelly Swenson (OH).
On the court: The Mustangs lost first team All-County outside hitter Rhisen Davis who was a key part of their offense and will look to make up for that lost production. Hull, second team All-County last year will be tasked with organizing the offense and providing valuable experience. Sophomore libero Grace Lei is expected to take on a bigger role after subbing in a few games at the conclusion of last season.
Coach’s outlook: “We are rebuilding after losing half the starting lineup. The girls are working hard everyday.”
Coach: Tina Catanach, fifth season
Last season: 9-6
Top returners: Seniors Ava Bradley (OH), Caroline Zheng (L), Emerson Rose (S), Lauren Roselle (OH) and Jillian Shoultz (MH).
On the court: The Vikings return key experience all over the floor with Bradley, a first team All-County performer last year headlining the offense. Zheng also is expected to be an impact player quickly developing into a more prominent role defensively. Roselle also will be more of a focal point of the offense this season, stepping into a more aggressive role. All five seniors will bring valued leadership throughout the court.
Coach’s outlook: “We have six returning senior starters. I am looking forward to seeing how far all of their experience, talent, and drive take them this season. I am excited about the amount of leadership we have. I expect us to be very competitive this season.”
Coach: Sakinah McDuffie, first season
Last season: 3-12
Top returners: Seniors Kathryn Rogan, Valerie Ashamu and Kaliyah Jones.
Newcomer to watch: Sophomore Katelyn Nuygen.
On the court: Rogan, Ashamu and Jones are each expected to be strong forces on the court to lead the Scorpions. Nuygen is moving from JV to varsity and is also expected to play a key role. Juniors Korinne Tillery and Emma Nuygen both hope to make immediate impacts, with Tillery bringing a strong presence to the front row and Emma learning a new position after serving as a captain on JV last year.
Coach’s outlook: “Along with the strong newcomers moving up, we have key pieces returning that will help us be competitive in the county.”
Coach: Carole Ferrante, fifth season
Last season: 16-3, Class 3A East Region II finalist
Top returners: Seniors Haley Ko (S) and Madison Smith (MB)
Newcomers to watch: Juniors Tiana Copp (OH) and Gabby Prather (MB)
On the court: The Gators graduated a trio of first team All-County performers last year and will look for newcomers to step up in their absence. Ko returns as an integral part of the offense, helping set up the attack and effective from the service line. Copp and Prather will step into larger roles, while sophomore Angela Lei is also expected to be an important contributor.
Coach’s outlook: “I am looking forward to what is to come this season. We graduated a large number of players (nine), but I feel confident that our rising players are ready for the challenges to come. They are young, talented and work well together. The energy and work ethic in the gym has been absolutely incredible.”
Coach: Lynn Paynter, 14th season
Last season: 13-3, Class 3A quarterfinalist
Top returners: Seniors Mackenzie Calhoun (S) and Grace Leska (OH); sophomore Josie Calhoun.
Newcomers to watch: Seniors Claire Liu and Abby McMahon; freshman Mia Parks.
On the court: Mackenzie has been first team All-County each of the last two years and was the Hawks’ leader in assists with 365 last year. Leska brings key added experience offensively as one of River Hill’s top hitters. Liu and McMahon give River Hill more senior leadership, while Parks is also expected to contribute in her first varsity season.
Howard County Times: Top stories
Coach’s outlook: “I’m excited, there has been terrific enthusiasm demonstrated across all teams.”
Coach: Molly Werts, second season
Last season: 2-9
Top returners: Senior Ashleigh Thur (L); junior Jasmine Nelson (S); sophomores Destiny Robinson and Sanaa Blake.
Newcomers to watch: Junior Jordyn Chaimti; freshmen Angel Jordan, Peyton Kim, Julia Desasso and Lindsey Dogette.
On the court: Nelson helps to set up the Wildecats’ offense, a team captain and leader in multiple stats. Thur, also a team captain, will be a consistent leader in both digs and serves, while Robinson and Blake bring added experience.
Coach’s outlook: “I am very excited for the girls this season. They show up happy and ready to work every day and that can only mean good things. The improvement we have already seen is tremendous and it’s only uphill from here. We look on bettering our county performance from last year and working to better the program.”