Wildcats return at No. 1 in VSN’s Volleyball Preseason Top 20

Arundel High volleyball coach Ashley Yuscavage (center) celebrates with her team after winning the program’s first state title (4A) at the University of Maryland in 2019. The Wildcats are No. 1 in VSN’s Volleyball Preseason Top 20 poll.

by Katherine Dunn
Baltimore area high school volleyball players will be happy just to get back on the court for a full fall season after COVID shortened, moved or erased games a year ago.
Questions surround many teams that held the high ground in VSN’s final 2019 Volleyball Top 20 as they do all teams — how well will newcomers fill positions vacated by graduated veterans, who will emerge to fill leadership roles, how long will it take to develop chemistry?
Still, a lot of the top programs are likely to regroup quickly with talented players they’ve had in the pipeline as well as newcomers with club experience.
Arundel, which won its first state title in 2019 and ended the season as VSN’s No. 1 team, gets the initial nod at the top spot but several teams have the potential to finish the season at No. 1 and there will certainly be some surprises.
Below is the complete VSN Volleyball Top 20 as well as a capsule on each team and players to watch.

2021 Spring record: 5-0
Coach: Ashley Yuscavage
Players to watch: Zaria Ragler, Sr., Middle hitter; Kaiya Walker, Sr., Middle hitter
Rotation point:. The Wildcats return three seniors from the 2019 Class 4A title team, Ragler and senior setters Abby Niles and Ashley Barnes. Overall, they bring back five seniors, including libero Alannah Quick, but Yuscavage, VSN’s 2019 Coach of the Year, said the team will be young overall, working towards consistency.

2021 Spring record: 8-0
Coach: Evan Frock
Players to watch: Cassi Shields, Sr., Outside hitter; Faith Mohr, So., Setter
Rotation points: Not only did the Owls sweep the competition in Carroll County this past spring, they didn’t lose a set. A skilled contingent of young players should make up for graduating seven seniors who won four county championships.

2021 Spring record: 3-2
Coach: Tracey Regalbuto
Players to watch: Natalie Luscomb, Sr., Outside Hitter; Madeline Stewart, Jr., Setter
Rotation points: The Bruins return 12 players from last season and six from the 2019 state finalist team, including Luscomb, Stewart and junior outside/opposite hitter Bella Rubino. With a lot of leadership from a large junior class, they will challenge Arundel.

2021 Spring record: 10-0
Coach: Carole Ferrante
Players to watch:  Gabby Allen, Jr., Libero; Jessica Rothermel , Sr. Setter
Rotation points: The Gators won their first Howard County title since 2007 in April and although they graduated four starters, they return a roster full of players with experience and add a stellar outside hitter in senior transfer Famiha Foster.

2020 record: No season
Coach: Missy Little
Players to watch: Caitlin Shaffrey, Sr., Outside hitter; Libby Potter, Jr., Outside hitter
Rotation points: The 2019 IAAM A Conference finalist Lions managed a few unofficial matches more akin to pick-up games on grass last fall. They now boast depth and flexibility among a strong group showing the chemistry they’ll need as the team to beat in the conference.

2021 Spring record: 3-2
Coach: Tim Dunbar
Players to watch: Maggie Sale, Sr., Outside hitter; Ava Meadows, Jr., Middle hitter
Rotation points: The Falcons return three starters and have a good foundation in their hitters and their defensive ability. Once they adjust to a new setter, they should be right in the Anne Arundel County race.

Spring 2021 record: 10-1
Coach: Allison McCoy
Players to watch: Ayanna Pharoah, Sr., Setter; Corinne Chau, Jr., Outside hitter
Rotation points: The Lions finished second in the Howard County league’s shortened spring season and they return four starters. With a versatile offense and great chemistry, they should battle for the top spot in the county.

2020 record: Did not play
Coach: Dave Simon
Players to watch: Lexi Couch, Sr., Outside hitter; Mackenzie Springer, Sr., Setter/Opposite hitter
Rotation points: Although the Bobcats did not have a season in 2020-21, Couch and Springer helped them reach the Class 3A state semifinals in 2019 and provide a solid foundation for a run at repeating as UCBAC Chesapeake Division champs.

2021 Spring record: 5-6
Coach: Lynn Paynter
Players to watch: Erin Li, Sr., Libero; Shreeni Chikyala, Sr., Middle hitter
Rotation points: The Hawks return eight of their top 10 players from spring when having players in COVID quarantine forced them to forfeit four of their 11 matches. With a good team dynamic and strong defense, they will be a team to watch in a deep Howard County race.

2020 record: 3-1-1
Coach: Corby Lawrence
Players to watch: Mariah Sanabia, Jr., Middle hitter; Addison Collins, Jr., Outside hitter
Rotation points: Lawrence takes over a young team with four returning starters. Even though the Cavaliers are young with not a lot of big-game experience, they appear to be Maryvale’s top competition.


2021 Spring record: 7-1
Coach: Cary Lyon
Players to watch: Charlie Vail, Jr., Setter; Abbey Hochrein, Sr., Opposite hitter
Rotation points: The Lions avenged their only loss, against Hereford, in the spring finale. They return a solid core of players but need to boost their attack after Vail moved from outside hitter to setter.


2021 Spring record: 3-3
Coach: Larry Schofield
Players to watch: Kyndall Mason, Sr., Outside hitter; Kelly He, Sr., Setter
Rotation points: The Raiders have talented players who haven’t played together much. Developing strong chemistry could place them in the upper tier in Howard County.


2021 Spring record: 7-1
Coach: Bryan Trumbo
Players to watch: Eva Brandt, Sr., Outside hitter; Jasmine Stanton, Jr., Outside hitter
Rotation points: The Knights bring back four starters from the spring, including three from the 2019 Class 3A state championship team, as they aim to battle Westminster in Carroll County.

2021 Spring record: 7-1
Coach: Dave Schreiner
Players to watch: Rylee McDaniel, Sr., Setter; Aubrey Craig, Jr., Middle Hitter
Rotation points: Baltimore County champions in 2019, the Bulls lost six seniors but bring back a solid core from the team that lost only one spring game to perennial rival Dulaney.

15. ST. MARY’S 

2020 record: N/A
Coach: Sarah Heary
Players to watch: Brooke Heary, Sr., Outside hitter; Hannah Mendenhall, Sr., Setter
Rotation points: The 2019 IAAM B Conference champions have eight seniors in the lineup but are working to build new hitter-setter connections with just two starters back.


2020 record: 6-1-1
Coach: Gary Troy
Players to watch: Sara Fleckenstein, Sr., Outside hitter; Molly Penn, Jr., Libero
Rotation points: The 2019 IAAM A Conference champs graduated two of the area’s top hitters and will rely on serving, defense and serve receive to compensate for being a little undersized.

2021 Spring record: 4-4
Coach: Mike Bossom
Players to watch: Kendall Kreidel, Sr., Middle hitter; Brianna Bossom, Jr., Setter
Rotation points: The Patriots return five of seven starters and look strong serving and passing as well as on defense while they work to improve their hitting and blocking.

2021 Spring record: 4-5
Coach: Tina Catanach
Players to watch: Ava Bradley, So., Outside hitter; Caroline Zheng, So., Libero
Rotation points: The 2019 Howard County champions will be young this season and didn’t have the chance to gel last season because of COVID quarantines, but they have plenty of potential.

19. POLY 
2020 record: Did not play
Coach: Kendall Peace-Able
Players to watch: Asia Murray, Sr., Outside hitter; Courtney Roundtree, Sr., Middle hitter
Rotation points: The 2019 Baltimore City champions graduated 13 seniors, so they will rely on talented youngsters as they rebuild around a new setter.

2020 record: Did not play
Coach: Dave Naugle
Players to watch: Jayda Patterson, Sr., Outside hitter; Libby Gross, Sr., Setter
Rotation points: With a core of strong veterans and an influx of young talent, including two freshmen battling for starting spots, the Mustangs could make a big move in the UCBAC.