The consistency displayed by the Jamestown and Warhill volleyball programs has been nothing short of remarkable as of late.
Warhill claimed back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015 and reached the Group 3A semifinals each of the last four seasons, also making the state final in 2013.
Jamestown has been eliminated in the playoffs by Loudoun County each of the last five seasons including in each of the last two 4A title matches. The Eagles have advanced to at least the state semifinals each of the past five seasons against the powerhouse Raiders, who handed Jamestown only its second defeat of the 2016 season in the final at VCU last November.
Include Lafayette’s state semifinal run in 2013 and the last four seasons especially must be considered the golden era for Williamsburg volleyball.
A burning question for this fall’s campaign: Will 2017 be included and remembered in this prosperous span for local volleyball teams?
Jamestown lost six key seniors from last season including a pair of Division 1 recruits but returned senior Emma Schriner, a 6-foot-3 Tennessee commitment and Gatorade Player of the Year candidate, along with a healthy contingent of other year-round players. Shriner and the Eagles, along with Warhill standout Chloe Wilmoth and Bruton’s Gabby Calloway, a Hampton University recruit, should help make the answer to that inquiry “yes.”
Here’s a closer look at each local Bay Rivers District team:
The Eagles lost a ton from last year but still feature 11 upperclassmen including Schriner. Other returning starters include seniors Maddie Pettengell (outside hitter), Audrey Luedde (libero) and Emma Yaugo (middle hitter) along with junior Samantha Moberly (setter/defensive specialist), and sophomore Angelina Spirito (libero).
Schriner is the only 6-footer for Jamestown with the loss of Ellie Popelka (South Carolina freshman) and Maria Esch (UNC Greensboro freshman) although Pettengell measures in at 5-11 and the powerful hitter has potential for all-state consideration, according to coach Tom Stephenson.
Junior Sofia Feltwell, 5-11, also brings some more size to the net at the opposite hitter slot for the Eagles, who were dominant last season en route to district, conference and region championships.
Jamestown finished first of 32 teams in the University of North Carolina summer team camp with wins over reigning 6A champion Kellam of Virginia Beach and North Carolina 4A runner-up Providence High.
Stephenson said expectations are high for his group, as always.
“I expect Grafton and Warhill to be very tough this year,” Stephenson said. “New Kent is always well-coached and Poqouson and Bruton have excellent athletes… “We lost some key players that have been in the varsity program for four years.
“However we are filling every position with players that have played club volleyball, are hard workers, bring a positive attitude and synergy to the team and possess a high level of skill. How far we go will depend on the leadership of our upperclassmen.”
The Lions lost Georgia Tech recruit Cori Clifton, VCU recruit Jewel Walters and four other seniors, and coach Greg Koon isn’t quite sure what to expect in what he labeled a rebuilding year after the team reached the 3A semifinals last fall.
Warhill is very young but did return Wilmoth, a junior setter and outside hitter who Koon expects to be the program’s fifth Division I recruit in the last four years.
Lone senior Allison Faber, a powerful and aggressive hitter, should be another standout for the Lions, who have had a penchant the last few seasons for vast improvement down the stretch.
“I see potential in this group,” Koon said, “and the day they realize they are actually good at what they do individually, they will be great as a team. It seems that every year, Warhill starts a little slow out of the gate but starts gaining momentum in the second half. Hopefully, Warhill can do the same this year and finish the season as better players, students and people.”
The Rams returned an upperclassmen-heavy team as Rachel Tighe entered her second season at the helm of the program.
Lafayette returned four starters from last season’s squad that was eliminated in the conference playoffs by Jamestown including senior setter Abby Goetsch, senior libero Paola Territo and junior hitter Briar Ownby-Connolly.
Tighe listed freshman middle hitter Emily Sullivan as a potential impact player and expects the Rams to progress at a faster rate this season.
“I would say that the girls have come out with a bit more intensity this year and I am hoping that continues throughout the season,” Tighe said. “They have vocalized their team and individual goals and the girls are working hard to reach those together.”
The Panthers did lose Marymount University recruit Mykael Johnson but return a plethora of experienced players led by Calloway, who tallied nearly 400 kills a season ago in addition to leading the team in aces and finishing second in digs.
Other returning upperclassmen include seniors Neryssa Donnell (libero), Makayla Johson (middle hitter) and Tabitha Oliver (hitter) along with juniors Alexa Woolson (setter) and Ayanna Millner (hitter).
Woolson’s 5.0 assists per set average last season helped her earned all-region honors in 2A.
Last year, Bruton narrowly missed out on its first state tournament berth since the mid-1990s after their most successful district campaign in 20 years that preceded a Conference 33 championship.
“I would be surprised if this year wasn't one for their memory books,” Bruton coach Kevin Doloresco said. “They are a close-knit group, much like last year.”
Sept. 21 – Jamestown at Warhill
Oct. 24- Warhill at Jamestown
Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.