Raiders lead pack to start 2018; South River, Arundel, Westminster and Dulaney in Top 5

Pictured above: Ryan Rorls (left), Lisa Zoch and Elise Park will lead Atholton volleyball in 2018. The Howard County school is No. 1 in VSN’s Volleyball Preseason Top 20 poll. 

by VSN Staff

Coming off a second straight trip to the state final four, Atholton High is No. 1 in VSN’s Volleyball Preseason Top 20.

With last fall’s Howard County Player of the Year and one of the area’s elite in senior outside hitter Lisa Zoch, the Raiders are aiming for the HoCo league crown and the Class 3A state title. Larry Schofield, who guided Centennial to the 3A state crown in 2008, has the reigns after Robert Moy, the 2016 VSN Coach of the Year, stepped down.

A pair of Anne Arundel strongholds, South River and Arundel, are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. The Seahawks and Wildcats have an eye on the state 4A final four and trying to break Montgomery County’s Northwest’s hold of the state championship trophy.

Westminster, last year’s 3A state finalist, and Dulaney round out the Top 5. Defending IAAM A Conference champ Mount de Sales Academy (No. 6) highlights the second half of the Top 10.

Howard County has five teams in the preseason Top 20, followed by Anne Arundel (four) and the IAAM and UCBAC leagues (three each).

Here is the entire 2018 VSN Volleyball Preseason Top 20:




2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #2

Coach: Larry Schofield

2017 record: 16-2

Players to watch: Lisa Zoch, Sr., outside hitter; Elise Park, Sr., liberto; Ryan Rorls, So., outside hitter

Sideout: Schofield takes the reins from Robert Moy, who moves down to the junior varsity after leading the Raiders to a Class 2A State title in 2016 and the 3A final four last fall.

“Robert felt he needed a break and wanted to teach the game to the younger girls,” said Schofield, Moy’s assistant the last couple years who led Centennial to its 13th state title in 2008.

With Zoch, the returning captain and hitter who had 178 kills and 207 digs and really quick senior libero in Park, Schofield is very confident going into the season saying, “we have a lot of experience and should be able to duplicate last year’s accomplishments plus one. The seniors have a single purpose of mind: win the states.”


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #4

Coach: Mo Carter

2017 record: 16-4

Players to watch: Savannah Doctor, Sr., outside hitter; Erin Canter, Sr., outside hitter

Sideout: Could this finally be the big one for the Hawks and their veteran coach? Firepower from their senior hitting duo  in Doctor and Canter, as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the metro area, could make it happen in 2018 and end the extraordinary frustration for the Seahawks.

South River has never won a volleyball state championship and played in a state final only once that in 1981 before Carter took over. The coach has had several promising  teams over the last decade, but they appear to be snakebitten, such as 2017 when they lost only 4 games, but 3 of those losses came at the hands of top ranked Arundel in regular season, the county championship match and the region final.   


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #3

Coach: Ashley Yuscavage

2017 record: 19-1

Players to watch: Mackenzie Meehan, Sr., middle blocker; Brooke Watts, So., middle blocker; Aaliyah Griffin, So., middle blocker

Sideout: After a banner season that saw the Wildcats go 19-0 with the Anne Arundel County and the Class 4A East Region titles, Arundel suffered a bitter 3-1 loss to Northwest of Montgomery County in the Class 4A state final.

Not only did the Cats lose their final game, but also their leader and setter in Alicia Eldredge, VSN’s Volleyball Player of the Year, who’s now playing for Edinboro (PA) University. Meehan and Watts are expected to fill the void on what coach Yuscavage says is “a very young  team,’’ but a team with 11 freshmen and sophomores that “have excitable energy and athleticism.”


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #2

Coach: Ed Benish

2017 record: 17-2

Players to watch: Jillene Widener, Jr., outside hitter; Emily Barrett, Sr., outside hitter

Sideout: The Owls played in their first ever state final last November and would love another chance at the 3A state championship in 2018. With two-time Carroll County Player of the Year, Jillene Widener returning for her junior season that possibility certainly exists.

Widener has emerged as one of the Maryland area’s most dominant players pounding 362 kills and 59 aces last season leading the Owls to the Carroll County and 3A North Region championships, and just their third berth (other in 2014) in a state final four. Coach Benish has established Westminster as one of the area’s top programs in his short tenure going 28-6 over the last two seasons, their only other loss was to Liberty (3-1 decision), which finished No. 11 in VSN’s Final Top 20.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Coach: Cary Lyon

2017 record: 10-6

Players to watch: McKenzie Weller, Sr., outside hitter; Rose Vail, Sr., outside hitter; Kathryn Parler, Sr., setter; Aja Irving, Sr., outside hitter

Sideout: After a surprising exit out of the 4A North Region playoffs (lost to Western), Dulaney will have extra incentive for the 2018 campaign to go with their senior-dominated team (11 total) that will be led by Weller, Parler, Vail and Irving.

Dulaney has a winning tradition that should carry on this fall.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #7

Coach: Pat Dayton

2017 record: 14-2

Players to watch: Mary Grace Goyena, So., outside hitter; Chipinma Onukwugha, So., middle hitter

Sideout: “Super Sophs,” Goyena and Onukwugha return for the Sailors’ defense of the IAAM A Conference championship under new coach Payton, who takes over for Juan Nguyen. The power-hitting 10th graders make the Sailors the team to beat in the IAAM A and Goyena, who delivered 212 kills last season, is the jewel of a still young team and is complemented by Onukwugha.

The pair knows how to take over a match and will be surrounded by a very good cast.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #10

Coach: Jason Monjes

2017 record: 14-3

Players to watch: Madelyn Southern, Sr., outside hitter; Alyssa Kelly, Jr., libero; Maddie Myers, Jr., outside hitter

Sideout: After consecutive 7-8 seasons, the Gladiators put it together in 2017 and just missed the 2A state final four by a point. The good news for coach Monjes and his crew is a good returning nucleus and two newcomers in Kelly and Myers who could have a positive impact.

Kelly is a transfer from Montgomery County’s Good Counsel, while Myers was home schooled until this year and is being recruited by Division I schools.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #12

Coach: Mike Bossom

2017 record: 10-6

Players to watch: Jackie Sterenberg, Sr., outside hitter; Camila Caver, Sr., libero; Nicole Attram, Sr., middle blocker; Emily Dewhurst, Sr., rightside hitter

Sideout: Four key senior returnees make the Eagles a contender in Howard County and, likely, beyond. Bossom is in his second go-round at Centennial where he previously led the Ellicott City school to eight state titles, the first in 1994 and the last in 2005.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #8

Coach: Dave Schreiner

2017 record: 16-3

Players to watch: Maggie May, Sr., outside hitter; Shelby Jones, So., middle hitter; Cindy Parker, So., outside hitter

Sideout: Schreiner feels his Bulls will be stronger both offensively and defensively this season which means another winning campaign in north Baltimore County. Schreiner is relying on his seasoned hitter in May and a  air of promising sophomores in Jones and Parker to give his team the necessary firepower to put matches in the win column.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Coach: Tracy Regalbuto

2017 record: 7-7

Players to watch: Madison Chadwick, Sr., outside hitter; Jessica Corbin, Sr., defensive specialist; Grace Phelan, Jr., middle blocker

Sideout: County teams are touting the Bruins to be one of Anne Arundel’s top teams coming off a .500 season in 2017, in which they could never get a good streak together. Chadwick and Corbin are top returnees along with Phelan. The Bruins are not overly tall and will be counting on a nucleus of talented underclassmen.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #5

Coach: Grant Scott

2017 record: 16-4

Players to watch: Grace Sweet, Sr., libero; Ava Frederickson, Sr., outside hitter; Vendela Lundgren, Sr., setter; Emma Marthins, Jr., middle blocker

Sideout: With four key players returning in seniors Sweet, Frederickson and Lundgren and junior Marthins, Scott, a former USAV travel player for 10 years, looks to build around them. The tough loss to perennial contender Montgomery County’s Sherwood last season is behind the Lions as they look forward to another chance at the 4A final four.

Sweet ranks as one of the area’s top liberos with her 247 digs in 2017 and Lundgren is a 4-year varsity player. Frederickson at 5-foot-9 and Marthins at 5-10 give the Lions good height at the net.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #11

Coach: Mike Rainbow

2017 record: 15-3

Player to watch: Ali Whitworth, Jr., setter; Lydia Leiner, Sr., outside hitter

Sideout: Rainbow is looking for his Lions to rally around returning All-Carroll County standouts Whitworth, who is arguably the premier setter in the area and Leiner, one of the top hitters.

Whitworth had a county leading 510 assists and rung up 61 kills and 44 aces. Leiner is expected to be a senior leader  as Liberty will once again lock horns in the 2A West with Century and defending state champion Oakdale of Frederick.     


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #6

Coach: Rich Wilson

2017 record: 17-1

Players to watch: Claire Curran, Sr., middle hitter; Brelyn Young, Sr., libero; Sophia Eckerd, So., outside hitter

Sideout: The defending UCBAC Chesapeake champions did not lose until the 2A state semifinals last season, but Wilson expects a bounce back and make another serious run at the league crown and 2A final four. The 5-foot-8 Curran and 5-10 Eckerd will deliver a lot of fire power.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #17

Coach: Tim Dunbar

2017 record: 10-7

Players to watch: Georgia Marriner, Sr., middle hitter; Chloe Campbell, Sr., outside hitter; Skyler Sale, Jr., outside hitter

Sideout: Dunbar is in his second stint at Severna Park after leading the Falcons to three consecutive state titles (1991-1993) and another one in 2014 after a brief departure. You could say the veteran coach is rebuilding again with loss of his setter and defensive types and two freshmen and five sophomores on this year’s team. The Falcons are counting on 3-year starter Marriner, Campbell and Sale to lead the crop of underclassmen in the school’s new gym.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #14

Coach: Kelli Wilkinson

2017 record: 9-6

Players to watch: Jalen Dickerson, Jr., outside hitter; Sarah Boyce, Sr., opposite hitter; Shelby Lucas, Jr., middle hitter; Abigail Snyder, Jr., setter

Sideout: Despite losing a pair of All-IAAM Conference players in Monet Peoples (286 kills last year) and Morgan Hill to graduation, the Gators “hope to be contenders at the end of the season,’’ said Wilkinson. The Gators have made the IAAM A final two straight years. Dickerson and Boyce are key returnees and transfer students Lucas and Snyder are expected to fit in. Destiny Ryles is a promising outside hitter and adds to the depth.   


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #20

Coach: Elizabeth McCourt

2017 record: 14-3

Players to watch: Olivia Simon, Jr., setter; Megan Hoy, Sr., outside hitter; Brooke Myers, Sr., middle blocker; Radhika Patel, Sr., libero

Sideout: The Bobcats have moved up to the Chesapeake, the top division in the UCBAC, after a 12-0 record in the Susquehanna last fall. McCourt says the move up should provide a positive challenge to her Bobcats who “have a ton of talent and size,” in addition to returning  all their starters. Sophomore outside hitter Madison Regan is a promising player.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Coach: Karl Totten

2017 record: 8-8

Player to watch: Jordan Badorrek, Sr., setter

Sideout: Opposing coaches and teams will beware of the Falcons as Badorrek is considered to be one of the top setters in Carroll County. The veteran is expected to lead six returning seniors to a promising season.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Coach: Scott Rombach

2017 record: 10-8

Players to watch: Jacey Lewis, Jr., outside hitter; Caitlin Illey, Sr., defensive specialist

Sideout: The all-IAAM A Conference duo of Lewis, who fired 199 kills last fall, and Illey, an athletic  defensive specialist who came up with 152 digs should lead the Cavaliers to a successful season. Lewis is a third-year starter who Rombach is counting on to lead a returning nucleus that has the veteran coach very confident.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #16

Coach: Nick Sharp

2017 record: 12-6

Players to watch: Claudia Sweitzer, Sr., setter; Anna Brown, Sr., outside hitter; Renilah Watkins, Jr., middle blocker

Sideout: With only four  seniors and a lack of overall height, the feisty Wildecats will be counting on their competitive spirit to make some noise in Howard County. Team captain and plan setting Sweitzer was all-Howard County last fall, and is back for her final season, looking to bring the Cats’ large contingent of underclassmen together.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: #18

Coach: Matt Borrelli

2017 record: 15-4

Players to watch: Alex Leslie, Sr., outside hitter; Rebecca Holman, Sr., outside hitter; Jordan Carr, Sr., setter

Sideout: The Panthers keep knocking on the door to the 1A state championship trophy having lost in the state final 5 of the last 7 years, and one of these years they are going to knock it down. They are looking to make another run this season with tri-captains Leslie (5-foot-8), Holman (5-11) and Carr (5-9) leading the way. Perryville’s overall height gives them a positive factor to produce.


2017 Final VSN Top 20 rank: Not ranked

Coach: Gloria Peeling

2017 record: 6-8

Players to watch: Julia Franzoni, Sr., outside hitter; Brooke Conway, Sr., middle hitter

Sideout: Coming off a disappointing season which had promise going in, the Blazers are ready to turn things around and opposing IAAM A coaches in the conference expect them to do so with all-league hitter Franzoni and Conway leading the way. Notre Dame Prep is the fourth IAAM team ranked in the VSN Preseason Top 20.