WATERFORD - Over the years, Waterford High has enjoyed a winning volleyball tradition.
With that in mind, the 2014 campaign has success written all over it with the return of three key Wildcat netters in Taylor Hilverding, Maddy Sury, and Dani Drayer.
Like many prep volleyball programs, though, Waterford has some position vacancies to fill with the loss to graduation of setter Alyssa Miller, rightside hitter Laura Hill, libero Katie Semon, outside hitter Haley McCutcheon, and middle hitter Jessie Reynolds. This quintet was very instrumental in helping last season's Jandy Drayer-coached green and white squad finish 16th-ranked in Ohio Division IV with a 23-3 overall record.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding (14) spikes the ball as a Symmes Valley player, right, tries to block it in a sectional final match at the Harry Cooper Annex on Oct. 17, 2013. Hilverding is one of two seniors on the team this season.
"We lost a lot of leadership and experience," said Coach Drayer, whose team is scheduled to have its first practice tonight from 6 to 8. "Those girls were great role models, and just a great group to coach."
Last year's Cats were the Tri-Valley Conference-Hocking Division champions with an undefeated 16-0 mark, which included three triumphs over arch-rival Eastern. They were also sectional champs for the sixth consecutive year, and district winners for the second time in the last four falls.
"I think our league (TVC) is going to be a lot tougher this year," Drayer said. "Trimble and Southern didn't lose too many (to graduation), and are much improved."
Head coach: Jandy Drayer
Aug. 21 at Fort Frye
Aug. 28 BELPRE
Aug. 30 at Athens Invitational
Sept. 3 at Miller
Sept. 4 EASTERN
Sept. 8 FEDERAL HOCKING
Sept. 9 at Southern
Sept. 11 at South Gallia
Sept. 15 at Fort Frye
Sept. 16 WAHAMA
Sept. 18 at Trimble
Sept. 22 at Belpre
Sept. 23 FORT FRYE
Sept. 25 at Eastern
Sept. 27 WARREN
Sept. 29 at Federal Hocking
Sept. 30 SOUTHERN
Oct. 2 SOUTH GALLIA
Oct. 7 at Wahama
Oct. 8 FORT FRYE
Oct. 9 TRIMBLE
Waterford advanced to the regional semi, where it bowed out to Newark Catholic.
Miller capped her high school career on a high note by being named the District 13 D4 Player of the Year and the TVC-Hocking Division co-Player of the Year. The 5-foot-7 standout finished with 757 assists, 91 digs, 52 kills, 33 aces, and 31 blocks.
Miller will be tough to replace.
"We may struggle some at setting this year," Jandy Drayer said. "I think a big key will be having someone step into that role (setting). And, right now, I don't know who that person will be.
"Dani and Maddy are athletic enough that each could be the setter in an emergency. We'll just have to see what happens."
Hill, Semon, and McCutcheon were also all-league honorees.
The 5-10 Hill, a Muskingum University volleyball recruit, was a versatile performer with 227 digs, 187 kills, 79 aces, 56 assists, and 24 blocks.
"Laura was one of the best backside hitters that I've ever seen," Coach Drayer said.
The 5-4 Semon was a defensive specialist with 135 digs and 8 assists, and McCutcheon had 216 digs, 166 kills, 46 assists, 44 aces, and 24 blocks.
Reynolds finished with 19 kills and 8 blocks.
All five of these Waterford graduates will be missed. The Lady Wildcats also will not have the services of juniors' Regan Porter (hitter) and Mariah Starkey (setter), who have decided to focus on basketball.
Still, there's Dani Drayer, a junior first-team all-district pick, and Hilverding and Sury, both seniors, to lead the way.
Last autumn, Drayer had 196 kills, 191 digs, 60 aces, and 11 assists as an outside hitter.
The 5-10 Hilverding, a middle hitter, led the Wildcats with 209 kills and 124 blocks. She also had 121 digs, 56 aces, and 15 assists.
The 5-8 Sury, also a middle hitter and an all-around athlete (All-Ohio in track&field), finished with 148 kills, 100 blocks, 65 aces, and 60 digs.
Expected to step in and up will be juniors' Lydia Beardsley (libero) and Tess Teters (outside hitter).
Both have had some varsity experience and were top-notched JV players last year. Beardsley is considered a very efficient passer.
Some underclassmen to keep an eye on will be sophomore outside hitter Jillian McCutcheon and freshmen setter Jordan Taylor and hitter Ally Kern.
Coach Drayer said she's expecting "about 20 girls" at the first practice.
"I'd like to have more," she said. "We've got a lot of work to do. The girls are fun to coach. I think we're going to be just fine."