WILLIAMSBURG—Jamestown, Lafayette and Warhill should all be in contention in the Bay Rivers District volleyball race this fall.
Warhill was state 3A runner-up last season, and graduated Kalen Clifton and Morgan Mallory from that squad.
Top returners are first team all-state selections Alex Koon and Colby Norris. Koon was also Conference 25, East Region and 3A state player of the year.
Senior Megan Harrigan; juniors Nicole Mulligan, Hanna Comier and Madi Braman and sophomores Cori Clifton, Jewel Walters and Bre Harrigan are expected to contribute significantly. Newcomers that will fill needed positions are sophomore Gabby Santana and freshmen Elizabeth Glazener and Alis Ripchick.
"We are committed to improving our defense and speeding up our offense," Warhill coach Greg Koon wrote in an email. "This season will differ from previous season because we have more depth on the bench then ever before. The key to any success this season will be determined by our ability to keep our opponents out of system, serve receive well and side out."
Jamestown was state 4A runner-up last year and finished 27-2. The Eagles have been to the state tournament six of the nine years Tom Stephenson has coached the team.
"The program has really been progressing nicely, and we have similar expectation for this year," Stephenson said.
Jamestown graduated six players, three of whom played key roles last year.
Among the returners, top contributors are expected to be sophomore outside hitter Maria Esch, a returning all-state selection, senior outside hitter Tess Anderson and sophomore Ellie Popelka, a second team all-conference pick last year who had the highest hitting efficiency on the team as a freshman.
Senior Allison Walls is expected to have a breakout season at middle hitter, according to Stephenson. Two experienced setters are available to step in and run the offense in sophomore Maggie Vinlard and junior Maddie Spence.
Top newcomers for Jamestown will be transfers Emma Schriner and Grace Thiesse, freshman Maddie Pettengell and juniors moving up from the junior varsity Gen Allison and Rebecca Golub.
"We've looked very good in the preseason," Stephenson said. "It's a very tall team and we're going to present a very good block this year; that's one of our strengths. We want to continue to get better on defense and in our serve receive, and in all aspects of the game."
"We feel like we will contend for a fourth consecutive district title. Conference and regional play, we think we have a shot at going pretty deep in the playoffs, and hopefully returning to the state tournament."
Lafayette graduated five players, including all-state selection Kiersten Langerud, from its 14-5 team that reached the state 3A semifinals.
Key returners are senior middle blocker Shaylee Ruescher, junior setter Julia Howard and sophomore outside hitter Abby Oren. Oren was all-state last season.
Junior outside hitter Nora Nettles and junior right side hitter Chandler Boone will need to make a contribution if the team is to succeed, according to Lafayette coach Keith Nowadly. Key newcomers are junior outside hitter Kelly Carroll and junior libero Madison VanDall.
The team's strength is serve receive, while it needs to improve on serving and defense, in Nowadly's assessment. He added that they have a good chance of advancing to Conference 25 competition.
Bruton will continue to grow its program, with four seniors as its leaders.
Two of the Panthers' top three hitters from last season return in senior middle Blocker Shayla Hillian, senior outside hitter Sydney Jamison and senior setter Hailey Bauer, the team's 2013 assist leader.
Third leading hitter Alexis Calloway graduated, and has been replaced by younger sister Gabby Calloway who joins the team as a freshman outside hitter.
"As a team our goal is to continue to improve on our rise in the Bay Rivers District standings, as well as to reach our Conference finals, thus reaching regional play in the post-season," Bruton coach Kevin Schoolfield wrote in an email.
At Walsingham Academy, new coach George Bottles has a squad with four returning seniors. Four players graduated from last year's team that went 11-11 and lost in the first round of the state tournament.
The top player back is senior outside hitter Emma Schellpeper, who was Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II second team all-state last season. Also among the team leaders will be setter Jenna Hamra, outside hitter Lisette Brondyke and defensive specialist Kristen Vogelbein.
Williamsburg Christian Academy has a new coach in Shireah Ragnar. WCA went 5-14 last season, 4-13 in the Metro Conference.
Key returners are junior setter Nicole Musfeit, junior libero Rachel Burch, senior outside hitter Simone Williams, and senior defensive specialist Maria Terracina. A transfer, middle hitter Patricia Davie, joins the team as a junior.
"The girls have been working hard in practice, and I think we're going to have good season and hope to improve the team's record from last year," Ragnar wrote in an email. "The girls have a lot of talent and work well with another on the court."
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-247-4644.
See video from Jamestown's volleyball practice at vagazette.com.