Here is a capsule preview of the volleyball teams in the Portage Trail Conference for the 2013 season, compiled by Record-Courier staff writer Colin Harris:
Head coach: Brenda Ward (74-23 career record)
2012 record: 14-9 overall, 10-4 PTC Metro
Returning letterwinners: Logan Kruse, Chey Brown, Hannah Petelin, Kayli Bookman, Maggie Adelman, Camille Adelman, Riley Coleman and Sierra Lowden.
Letterwinners lost: Aubrey Polasky, Courtney Brake, Sammy Perez and Tori Casamento.
Team outlook: The Field Falcons finished 10-4 in the Metro Division last year, but still took third behind Crestwood and Kent Roosevelt in a stacked title race.
With eight returning letterwinners, head coach Brenda Ward said she is hopeful the Falcons can get back to the top of the title standings in 2013.
Junior outside hitter Justine Barnes is a strong athlete on the outside, while sophomore middle Liz Lewis will be a dominant force in the middle.
"These two new additions to varsity will help the returning letterwinners," Ward said.
Senior Logan Kruse will be playing the other middle, while senior libero Hannah Petelin returns to lead a solid defense with sophomore Sierra Lowden aiding as a dominant DS.
Junior setter Maggie Adelman and sophomore setter Riley Coleman return to run the offense.
"Senior Kayli Bookman will be strong to our right front, as well as Senior Chey Brown dividing her time on the right and left fronts," Ward added.
Cause for concern: "We are not a particularly tall team, so we need to place the ball well and play smart," Ward said. "We will be creative with our blocking. Offensively, we struggle moving the ball around to spread out our hits. Consistency is always a concern, yet we diligently improve in this category daily."
Reason for optimism: "The majority of the girls played (Junior Olympic volleyball) in the off season, so they have kept fundamentally sound," Ward said. "We have a very scrappy, hard-working, defense that keeps the ball in play."
League outlook: "Of course our biggest concern is Kent Roosevelt," Ward said. "They have a strong, tall, offensively solid team. Crestwood and Norton always have good, competitive programs as well."
CRESTWOOD RED DEVILS
Head coach: Brittany Mayle (0-0 career record)
2012 record: 20-3 overall record, 13-1 PTC Metro
Returning letterwinners: Taylor Atkins, (Sr.), Mariah Focareto, (Sr.), Holly Hoffman, (Jr.), Morgan Strenk, (Jr.) and Hayley Zigman, (Jr.).
Letterwinners lost: Mallory Czuchra, Mallory Lorence and Sally Hoffman.
Team outlook: Former Crestwood standout Brittany Mayle takes over the Crestwood volleyball program from longtime coach Wanda Hoffman, and Mayle is set up with a good group of talent from last year's Metro Division co-champs.
"We return a lot of experienced players from last years championship team," Mayle said. "(Senior outside hitter) Taylor Atkins has done really well at the net this preseason. When she is getting the right sets, she gets aggressive and is nearly unstoppable because of her long reach."
Junior middle hitters Morgan Strenk and Hayley Zigman are back and Mayle said that "both are so dynamic, they will bring a lot of speed and power to their front row."
"Morgan and Hayley are also great defensive players and will be counted on to do a lot of passing," Mayle added. "I love the way they both push each other in practice and they are each others biggest support during games, always cheering and coaching one another."
Junior setter Holly Hoffman returns, and will run the Red Devils' offense, according to Mayle.
"Holly is athletic and competitive, but it is the way she plays the game that sets her apart," Mayle said. "She is so knowledgeable and makes great decisions with the ball. She has also been voted our captain because of her tremendous leadership skills."
Sophomore outside hitter JoAnna Ondash has improved her game from last year and will be one of Crestwood's starters. Defensively, Ondash is aggressive and does not let any balls drop in her area.
Right side hitters Reanna Szarka and Shawnee Kvasnicka -- both seniors -- should see a lot of playing time. Seniors Mariah Focareto, Holly Hays and Taylor Rector will all be counted on as defensive specialists.
Cause for concern: "We do not have a libero set in stone yet," Mayle said. "Our passing has improved, but is sometimes streaky. In the preseason we have also had the tendency to play up and down, but I think that will even out as we start the season and get settled."
Head coach: Bobbi Ross
Returning letterwinners: Kari Waldron, Brandy Shaffer, Chanavier Robinson and Alyssa Smetak.
Letterwinners lost: Lauren Van Meter, Elline Concepcion, Megan Wanstreet and Iyahnna Frost.
Team outlook: "We are a small group this year that is looking to capitalize on our strengths and play each team as competitively as possible," Ravenna head coach Bobbi Ross said.
Cause for concern: "We have some people stepping into some roles that are a little new to them, so it might take us some extra time to really mesh into our season," Ross said.
Reason for optimism: "We have a positive attitude and have been working very hard," Ross said. "We have some new faces in our front row this year to run our offense that have been doing a great job so far."
League outlook: "We are looking to play as competitively as we can with all of our opponents this year," Ross said.
Head coach: Tracy Reschke (20-4 career record)
2012 record: 20-4 overall, 13-1 PTC Metro
Returning letterwinners: Mylane Bella-Smuts (Sr.), Cortnee Bowser (Sr.), Hayley Chlad (Sr.), Megan Lavins (Sr.), Katelyn Gonos (Jr.), Allison Hartsook (Jr.), Cat Miller (Jr.), Brianna Rock (Jr.), Emily Slattery (Jr.), Angie Volchko (Jr.) and Sophi Cudworth (Soph.).
Letterwinners lost: Alli Cudworth and Eva Toppen.
Team outlook: "This year's team has a tremendous amount of varsity playing experience," Roosevelt head coach Tracy Reschke said. "Each girl on the roster is a returning letterwinner, and each girl is able to play multiple positions at the varsity level.
"This gives us lots of depth and many possible lineups," Reschke added. "We should have a very well-rounded team with players that really understand the game, enabling us to compete with every team we play this season."
Senior Mylane Bella-Smuts will handle setter and defensive specialist duties, while senior Cortnee Bowser -- a 2012 Metro Division First Team selection -- plays the middle blocker role. Senior Hayley Chlad is a rightside hitter and outside hitter, while senior teammate Megan Lavins is a defensive specialist.
Juniors Katelyn Gonos (outside hitter/middle blocker/rightside hitter), Allison Hartsook (outside hitter/defensive specialist), Cat Miller (setter/outside hitter), Brianna Rock (outside hitter), Lauren McKown (outside hitter/rightside hitter), Emily Slattery (defensive specialist) and Angie Volchko (setter/defensive specialist) make up a deep junior class of players.
Sophomore Sophi Cudworth is the sister of former Player of the Year Alli Cudworth and should be a major force this season. Sophi Cudworth saw major time on the court last year as a freshman, and was a Second Team selection as a middle blocker.
Cause for concern: "We need to make sure we play every point with a high level of focus and intensity," Reschke said. "As long as we play with discipline and good technique, we are a tough team to beat."
Reason for optimism: "Many of our girls had successful (Junior Olympic) volleyball seasons," Reschke said. "Three of the players (Bowser, Chlad and Cudworth) competed at AAU Nationals in Orlando and/or USAV Nationals in Dallas. Cortnee Bowser was named to the All-American team for both national tournaments."
League outlook: "The league should be very competitive again," Reschke said. "Crestwood and Norton will be two of the stronger teams vying for the league title. Crestwood had several returning key players, and Norton is a very athletic team with some talented young players. If we play well, we also expect to be competing for the conference title. It should be a fun season"
Head coach: Chad Kelly
Returning letterwinners: Naomi Pollock (Sr.), Brooke Bloniarz (Sr.) and Grace Reilly (Jr.).
Letterwinners lost: Rachel Ehers, Brianne Porter, Jordan Jeter, Carley Hurley and Makenzie Williams.
Team outlook: Mogadore head coach Chad Kelly said optimism is the order of the day for this year's Wildcats team.
"The Wildcats are looking forward to a prosperous 2013," Kelly said. "We have a third-year setter to win offense through some experienced seniors and a very excited group of younger players that are quickly learning what it takes to succeed."
Cause for concern: Kelly said he has no reason to be concerned about any aspect of his team going into the 2013 season.
Head coach: Cassie Braden (fourth season, 41-29 career record)
2012 record: 11-12 overall, 7-7 PTC County
Returning letterwinners: Cayanne Breznak (Jr.), Alex Cramer (Jr.) and Briana Ryan (Soph.).
Letterwinners lost: Tori Goodpaster, Abbi Ohman, Brandi Barkhurst, Alyssa Marva, Dawn Freeland, Katie Snyder and Casey Miracle.
Team outlook: Head coach Cassie Braden must replace a number of players off of last year's team, including First Team selection Abbi Ohman.
"We lost a lot of letterwinners last year, including six seniors, so we are playing very young," Braden said. "Junior setter Cayanne Breznak and senior defensive specialist Ally Blessing will be providing out leadership this year."
Braden said she is counting on a talented and experienced junior class to make up for the seniors lost from last year's team. But some surprises she is looking out for might come from freshmen middle Abby Moore and setter/back row Sam Galambos. Both girls are going to add a dynamic component to the varsity roster, said Braden.
Head coach: Jeremy Leyden
2012 record: 8-13 overall record, 6-13 PTC County Division
Returning letterwinners: Carolyn Anderson (Sr. captain, middle hitter); Whitney Arnett (Sr. captain, outside hitter); Emily Kasper (Sr., captain, setter); Lindsie Thursby (Sr. captain, outside hitter); Stephanie Aceto (Jr., middle hitter); Jessica Beattie (Jr., opposite hitter); Liza Imobersteg (Jr., outside hitter); Maria Reid (Jr., setter); Branna Riebau (Jr., defensive specialist).
Team outlook: "This is a great group that has been working very hard to prepare for this season," Woodridge head coach Jeremy Leyden said. "We will set specific goals for each game, and we will build off of each success so we can play our best in the post-season."
Two new faces Leyden said to look out for are junior defensive specialist/opposite hitter Danielle LoPrinzi, as well as junior outside hitter Kara Renner.
League outlook: There are many great teams with fantastic coaches in the PTC," Leyden said. "Our girls are fierce competitors, and we can't wait to see how we match up."
Head coach: Kevin Canterbury (second season, 22-3 career record)
2012 record: 22-3 overall, 13-1 PTC County
Returning letterwinners: Julie Podnar, Brooke Collins, Tabby Moore, Natalie Kovacich and Haley Hurd.
Team outlook: Waterloo graduated two tremendous players in 2012 County Division First Team selections Megan Forney and Bryce Wiley from a team that went 13-1 in the division and won a share of a league title. The Vikings also graduated Second Team selection Jamie Willis from that team.
It's not all bad, however, as senior 2012 Second Team selection Natalie Kovacich is back, as are Honorable Mention choices junior Brooke Collins and Tabby Moore.
Cause for concern: Waterloo head coach Kevin Canterbury said that inexperience at vital positions previously filled by experienced players like Forney and Wiley have him nervous.
Reason for optimism: On the other hand, Canterbury said that he likes the overall depth on this year's team, and he feels like a number of players can step up and play major roles for the first times in their career.
Head coach: David Opfer (0-0 career record)
2012 record: 1-22 overall, 1-13 PTC County
Returning letterwinners: Tessa Flatum (Sr.), Jewels Haylett (Sr.), Meghan Rohrbaugh (Sr.), Shannon Stowe (Sr.), Kourtney Holcomb (Jr.), Kirstin Hoover (Jr.) and Leah Maxey (Jr.).
Letterwinners lost: Kala Lowe and Ashlie Miller.
Team outlook: First-year head coach David Opfer has a task ahead of him as he tries to turn around the fortunes of a G-Men team that went 1-22 last season.
"We are very optimistic about having a much-improved season this year," Opfer said.
The senior class is made up of outside hitters Tessa Flatum (who will also play rightside hitter), Kennedy Porter and Meghan Rohrbaugh (who will also serve as a defensive specialist), while Shannon Stowe will handle the middle hitter role.
The junior class is made up of rightside hitter Taylor Crane, setter Kristin Hoover, defensive specialist Kourtney Holcomb and outside hitter/rightside hitter and defensive specialist Leah Maxey.
A pair of freshmen newcomers to the team this year are Nina Jurcevic, who will play outside hitter, setter and defensive specialist, as well as middle hitter Grayson Rose.
Reason for optimism: "We have very talented athletes who are working hard to improve," Opfer said of his team.
League outlook: "Southeast has a great tradition," Opfer said. "We saw Streetsboro this summer and they were very talented and well-coached."
Editor's Note: Information for the Southeast and Streetsboro volleyball teams was not provided in time for this edition.
Facebook: Colin Harris, Record-Courier