The prep volleyball season returns for local programs in August following a 2018 campaign that saw 13 programs reach the postseason and one earn a state championship.
Pace Academy earned its second consecutive Class 3A title in 2018 with a 29-win campaign. The Knights return senior outside hitter Ada Agolli, who led the team with 424 kills and 40 blocks last season. Opposite senior Lucy Ferry will also be a major contributor on offense after amassing 115 kills in 2018. Senior libero Dominique Turner returns after posting a team-high 443 digs and 66 aces last year. Junior setter Kalissa Greene had a team-high 923 assists as well for Pace.
Senior middle hitter Sasha Ratliff will see an increased role on the team as well as junior Hannah Pace and sophomore Morgan Neill rotating at the other outside hitter spot.
“Morgan and Hannah will fill our outside spot vacated by Alexandra Baker and after team camp, I am very confident both will solidify that position,” Knights coach Anna Bush said. “We need the new players to contribute and the returning players to mesh with them. Staying healthy is always a factor as well. I never look back to the previous year because every season is unique. This year’s team has not accomplished anything yet and those who have played before understand this mindset.”
Pace opens its season at home against Chattahoochee Aug. 12.
Riverwood won 25 matches, earned the Region 6AAAAA title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Class 5A playoffs last year. The Raiders return several top players including senior Kaylah Jackson, who had a team-high 295 kills last season. Junior Nicole Brooks posted a team-high 640 assists for Riverwood in 2018. Junior Sydney Levitan had a team-high 291 digs last season while senior Ty Thompson and junior Christyn Ashby are also top contributors back for the Raiders.
“We have some work to do but things are looking up offensively and defensively,” Riverwood coach Nikia Bynum-Isler said. “We attended the Auburn University team camp this summer and did well, resulting in us winning the Varsity Gold Division. Being camp champs was a positive push for the girls. We have been fortunate the last few years to win our region and to go deep into the state playoffs. We are mentally and physically preparing for another great season.”
Riverwood opens its 2019 campaign at Campbell Aug. 8.
“Our key factors to have a successful campaign will be the ability of our defense to be consistently strong, spreading the ball around offensively because we have some great hitters, mental toughness and resilience and team cohesiveness,” Bynum-Isler said.
Lovett won 25 contests and reached the Class 3A semifinals last season. Top returners for the Lions include sophomore outside hitter/right side hitter Christina Hill, who had 204 kills and 27 blocks, along with junior middle hitter Sloane Vassar, who had 46 combined blocks last year.
“We spent the summer doing early morning speed and agilities/weight training and had two or three open gyms a week to get touches on the volleyballs,” Lovett coach Katie Johnson said. “It’s been a good, hard-working summer for the girls. We want to carry over the commitment to the team and to the program. We work hard in the offseason to ensure that no one on the other side of the net will outwork our team in matches and we want to see that carry over into the 2019 season.”
The Lions open the season at home against St. Pius X Aug. 6.
“We’ve got to defend well and control the tempo of the game better this season,” Johnson said. “We’ve got the tools to be a good defensive team. We just need to execute and get good touches and repetition in practice.”
Mount Vernon qualified for the Class A-2A playoffs last season and returns several starters including junior outside hitter Katie Peddle, who had a team-high 285 kills in 2018. Junior middle hitter Anjali Singh posted 139 kills and 36 aces last year as well.
“Preparation for this season has gone well,” Mustangs coach Sharon Burnette said. “Our girls participated in camps, clinics and open gym to continue to improve their game. We are a young team and we still have a great core of girls to build on. Their knowledge and the ability to play is really good.
Mount Vernon visits Walker for its season opener Aug. 8.
“The meshing of the freshman with the core group is very important to us,” Burnette said. “Improving our skills everyday and being accountable for who we are on and off the court. Most importantly grow as teammates.”
Wesleyan won 17 matches and in the Class A-2A playoffs in 2018. Top returners will be junior setter Riley Bryan, who had a team-high 775 assists and 40 aces last year as well as senior libero Meredith Magnum, who posted a team-high 546 digs.
“We played in the Gwinnett County Summer League and went to Florida Team Camp,” Wolves coach Ted Russell said. “Both of these helped us to get a long look at our teams and better shape our rosters for the upcoming season. We are carrying 15 girls on our roster, which gives us a lot of competition for each position, which should make practice much more competitive.
“I think every team learns from the previous year’s experience, so we will try to replicate the positives such as great team chemistry. We have a strong group of senior leaders this year so we are excited to see how far this team can go in their final year. We will have to learn to win the close games and becoming effective out of system.”
Wesleyan hosts Parkview in its season opener Aug. 8.
Holy Innocents’ was also a postseason squad in 2018, winning the Area 1A title and advancing to the Class A-2A state quarterfinals along the way. Top returners for the Golden Bears will be three juniors in setter Ellen Goetz, libero Maddie Whittaker and Renee Davis. The Golden Bears will not have a senior on their varsity roster in 2019.
“Many of the girls have played year round and are just finishing up their club seasons, so we are going to work on strengthening our fundamental skills before we get deeper into our team dynamics,” Holy Innocents’ coach Taylor Noland said. “This is a very strong junior class. They are the upperclassmen now and they have a lot of hard work ahead of them but they are eager for success.”
The Golden Bears visit Westminster in their season opener Aug. 8.
“We will need to play as a team and stay focused on the end goal,” Noland said. “It’s so cliché but the season is a marathon, not a sprint. So the team and/or lineup that plays next week will change tremendously as we move toward October. We anticipate making another strong run in the postseason. The girls will be ready.”
Galloway made the Class A-2A playoffs for the third consecutive season last year. The Scots welcome back senior middle hitter Maddy Telford, senior setter Bridget Olzer and junior middle hitter Natalie Rojanets.
“We have a hungry senior class and the addition of a new young crop of talent will be beneficial across the board,” Galloway coach Andrew Tulowitzky said. “The feeling that we should have and could have done better (last season). That will drive us to work harder and be tougher. We’re looking to use our height in the middle to our advantage and continuing to build our culture based on being aggressive and working together as a team.”
Galloway hosts Mount Bethel to open its season Aug. 13.
Other local season openers include Atlanta International School hosting Mount Bethel Aug. 13 and Holy Spirit Prep visiting Dominion Christian Aug. 16.
Pless places eighth
Midtown resident and Buckhead native David Pless placed eighth in the shot put at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships July 26 in Des Moines, Iowa. His throw of 20.54 meters was a tenth of a meter behind seventh-place Curt Jensen. Ryan Crouser won the competition with a throw of 22.62 meters.