By Jeff Harrison
Talk about a good problem to have!
Thanks to the experience gained over the last couple of seasons, the Shenandoah Lady Zeps are primed for a strong season with a squad that could see the entire varsity squad playing significant roles.
Coach Megan Grywalski welcomes back nine letterwinners from last year’s team which posted an overall 14-13 record. That includes winning the OHSAA Division IV Sectional crown (beating Frontier and Monroe Central) and reaching the D-IV District (falling to Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the semifinals) and taking the runner-up spot in the OVAC Class 2A Tournament, beating Wheeling Central in the semifinals before falling to Shadyside in the championship match.
The good news is that the Zeps had zero players graduate and with so much talent returning, more specialization to take advantage of each player’s strength will be possible.
“As players gain experience, they are also gaining a better skill set of course,” said Grywalski, who was named District 12, Division IV Co-Coach of the Year last season. “This gives us many options this year for varsity because having many players with strong capabilities will let us specialize with the players more. Most of our players will either play only back row or only front row.
“We have the capability to have three strong attackers in the front row at all times which will really help us against strong teams during tournament time,” she added.
Developing team chemistry with so many girls expected to see action and developing mental toughness are points of emphasis, according to Grywalski.
“Some challenges come along with a bigger roster,” the Lady Zeps’ coach related. “Overall, we need to iron out that team chemistry.
“I intend for our team to show improvements in mental aspects as well,” Grywalski said. “We didn’t have the advantage of varsity-experienced players last year, so I’m looking to see improvements in their mental toughness.”
The team’s lone senior is Ryleigh Sherman, a three-year letter winning setter. Last fall, she dished out 562 assists; had 185 digs and served 52 aces to earn first team all-District 12 Division IV recognition.
Shenandoah boasts a strong group of sophomores, including two-year letterwinner Tara Pakes (outside hitter); one-year letterwinners Charli Wickham (outside/opposite hitter), Laney Hitchens (outside hitter), MaKenna Clift (libero), Kinsley Brown (outside/opposite hitter) and Grace Wikander (defensive specialist).
Pakes’ statistics a year ago included 17 kills, 46 aces and 38 blocks (21 solo), earning her first team all-OVAC and honorable mention all-District 12 honors; Wickham had 112 kills, 147 assists and 258 digs, receiving first team all-OVAC accolades; Clift notched 366 kills to gain second team all-District 12; and Hitchens had 155 kills.
Heading the sophomore group are letterwinners are Mya Leach (middle/outside hitter) and Brylee May (middle/outside hitter) while other sophs are Kadence Noll (defensive specialist), Emmy McVicker (opposite hitter) and Heather Merry (setter).
Leach enjoyed a big freshman year with 266 kills, 244 digs, 50 service aces and 45 blocks (17 solo) to earn OVAC Class 2A Player of the Year honors as well as first team all-District 12. May had 141 kills and 32 blocks (21 solo) and was honorable mention all-District 12..
The lone freshman on the varsity squad is Klara Anderson (middle hitter).
The Zeps’ JV squad includes juniors Cierra Perkins, Bailey Frye and Mackenzie Wiley; sophomore Haleigh Rich; and freshmen Eliza Carpenter, Khloee Winland, Abby Van Fleet, Sara West, Carlee Blind, Karis McKee, Adie Miley and Riley Weckbacher.
Betsy Schramm is Grywalski’s assistant and the team also received coaching support over the summer from SHS graduates Raegan Flood, Jacie Clifton and Trysten Smith.
The Lady Zeps open the season Saturday at Buckeye Trail and make their home debut next Monday (Aug. 23) against Cambridge.
Saturday, Aug. 21 – at Buckeye Trail, 12 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 23 – Cambridge, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 25 – Shadyside, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 30 – at Caldwell, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 7 – Fort Frye, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 9 – Union Local, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 13 – at Waterford, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 15 – Wheeling Central, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 16 – Caldwell, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 20 – Barnesville, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 22 – at Monroe Central, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 23 – at Shadyside, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 27 – at Barnesville, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 29 – at Union Local, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 30 – Monroe Central, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 2 – Buckeye Trail, 12 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 4 – Waterford, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 5 – at Wheeling Central, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 7 – at Fort Frye, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 9 – at Cambridge, 10 a.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 12 – OVAC Semifinals, TBA
Saturday, Oct. 16 – OVAC Finals, TBA
Photo by Holly Dixon
Shenandoah High’s 2021 volleyball team. Front row, left to right, Kadence Noll, Sara West, Cierra Perkins, Karis McKee, Ryleigh Sherman, Heather Merry and Haleigh Rich; second row, Grace Wikander, Mya Leach, MaKenna Clift, Carlee Blind, Laney Hitchens, Charli Wickham, Eliza Carpenter, Khloee Winland and Mackenzie Wiley; back row, head coach Megan Grywalski, Kinsley Brown, Riley Weckbacher, Adie Miley, Bailey Frye, Klara Anderson, Tara Pakes, Brylee May, Abby Van Fleet, Emmy McVicker and assistant coach Betsy Schramm.