The Pioneer Volleyball Team will once again enter the Cass County Tournament as the favorites.
The Panthers have won seven consecutive county titles. Last year’s event was canceled due to Logansport’s quarantine.
This year’s event begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer. The first game will be Caston against Logansport, followed by Pioneer against Lewis Cass. The consolation game will start around 7 a.m., followed by the championship game at 8 a.m.
Here are the preview capsules of the four teams:
The Panthers lost stars like Hailey Cripe and Mackenzie Robinson until graduation, but they’re reloading again.
Trailblazing coach Rod Nies is looking for his side to be one of the top contenders in Class 2A this year. The Panthers were the defending Class A state champions last year. They went 22-12 and won the HNAC title. They lost to Southwood in a section match.
“My junior class is really strong with Borges, Rogers, the youngest Cripe, Blair Grigsby, Kylie Attinger and Elizabeth Rans. It’s a really good class,” Nies said. “All of them have been playing since first or second year, so they have a lot of talent. We have a decent size in this class and they are all quite athletic.
“I have two very good seniors around whom I can build Mandee Weisenburger and Kaitlin Weldy.”
Weldy and Addie Cripe will lead the Panthers defense at DS. Nies said he had three good passers with Mackenzie Rogers, Blair Grigsby and second Keirsten Nies. Middle and outside hitters include Mandee Weisenburger, Brooklyn Borges, Kylie Attinger and Elizabeth Rans.
“We’re going to be pretty solid, we’re going to be pretty solid for the next two years actually,” Nies said. “Rogers, Borges and Weisenburger, I really expect great things from these girls this year. They have really improved.
“It could be a really fun and exciting season. If we stay healthy and keep improving, I think we have the horses to have a good race, hopefully a deep race. Even though it’s in 2A, I still think we’ve got what it takes. It’s early, we’ll have to wait and see, but it looks promising. But we are not there yet. »
Coach Haleigh Toumine is looking for the Berries to step up in his second season at the helm. The Berries went 8-21 last year.
“Hopefully we will have a much better season than last year,” Toumine said. “It was a learning experience for everyone last year. I’m a little more prepared this year. I have a new staff member, Delanie Deeter, she is from Lewis Cass. She’s great, she loved sports there. She was under Coach Pomasl when she was there. I’m excited for her and I think the girls really like her and listen to her, so that’s really good.
The Berries will be led by their five seniors, Katrina Sejour, Berlyn Huff, Finley Hettinger, Chloe Kelly and Kinzie Byrd.
“I have a very good group of five returning seniors,” Toumine said.
The setters are Kelly, junior Sydney Rance and rookie Adrienne Scott. Byrd will start the season as a libero. Other defensive specialists include juniors Kady Berkshire and Corryn Overway.
Right side hitters are Overway, junior Lacey Sutton and second Ashlyn Brumett. The left side hitters are Hettinger, sophomore Emilia Rozzi and freshman Teagan Wolf. The middle hitters are Sejour, Berlyn Huff and junior Lanee Huff.
Logan tangled Caston on Tuesday and will face the Comets again on Saturday to open the season.
“We just mixed them up. They are very good,” Toumine said. “They have a very powerful team this year. A couple of their outside hitters cut our line really hard and our girls weren’t ready for that. They’re used to big schools hitting that line, not cutting as much cross-court. So we will definitely be training this week. It was nice to see them in preview so that we can practice this week and improve in defending the ball. We were scrappy against them, I think we could have been a bit more scrappy. We didn’t let much touch the ground, but they had quite a few really good servers and a couple of their outsiders were very good.
The Comets have a new coach this year, Gina Hierlmeier, who is also the school’s athletic director.
Hierlmeier inherits a team from Caston that went 21-11 and 6-1 in the HNAC. The Comets finished the regular season with an 11-game winning streak before losing to Southwood in a division game.
Hierlmeier coached girls basketball at West Central, Culver and Mishawaka Marian, winning four section titles in six seasons at West Central. She also coached volleyball for five years at West Central from 2005 to 2009, winning a section title in 2005. She noted that she was hired to coach volleyball at West Central by current Caston manager Chuck Evans.
“The year we won the section we beat Pioneer and that’s when Dr Beth Dean was the coach and Rod took over after that. We had some really good battles in the sections along the way,” said Hierlmeier, who added that she was thrilled to be back coaching.
“I was just telling the girls when we were doing stuff in the gym that I’m excited about what we’re doing and I’m excited to be in the gym with them. The two hours with them are some of the best parts of my day. “They bring a lot of energy and I try to give that back. Things are going well and we’ll see where we are.”
The Comets have graduated All-Loganland prop Maddi Smith, who is expected to play volleyball and basketball at the University of Manchester. But the Comets send most of their team back.
“We have a lot of returning girls with a lot of experience. We’re just trying to focus on one game, one game at a time in hopes of continuing to improve,” Hierlmeier said. “Last year under coach [Melinda] Shultz, the team had the best record they had in school history, they were second in the conference. So obviously we want to take advantage of that and continue to grow. Our goals for this year are nothing more than what you would expect from a team. We want to win every game, we want to win every tournament, we want to compete at a high level and play our best volleyball by the time we get to the section.
“We have a lot of weapons. We try to add a lot of things to our attacking side of the ball to try to make us a tough team to play. We must continue to develop in this area. It’s going to take a whole team effort because I wouldn’t say there’s one person in our team that I would say is going to carry us through the season.
The Comets plan to run a 6-2 offense this year. The setters are senior Delaney Lowry and junior Annie Harsh. Outside hitters are juniors Macee Hinderlider and Isabel Scales. The middle hitters are Bailey Harness senior and Alexa Finke junior. The libero is junior Addison Zimpleman. Senior Kinzie Mollenkopf is also a defensive specialist. Junior Allie Paul is a right side hitter.
Coach Katie (Easter) Cowell returns for her fourth season at the helm of Lewis Cass.
The Kings went 7-23 last season and will look to continue their rebuild this season.
“I feel like we have a good mix of girls coming back and going to be new,” Cowell said. “The girls have been working hard in the gym for the past few weeks. We have good girls on JV stepping up. I can’t wait to see what it looks like this fall. I think we’re going to have younger girls that stand out and shine.
The Kings return Elly Logan senior to right side hitter, Maci Garland junior to outside hitter, Abbey Hileman junior to center hitter and Haley Miller junior to setter. Senior Brooke Whitney is a middle hitter, junior Dixie Wagoner is a libero, and second Maryn Zeck is a setter. Rookie Ava Hubner is in the starting lineup to start the season.
“I’m pretty excited to see how she progresses through the season,” Cowell said. “She’s pretty raw right now, but she’s got a lot of talent that you can see developing as we progress through training with her.”
The Kings open against Pioneer to start the season.
“I’m excited. I wish it was a few weeks later in the season so we could really have a set roster under our belts,” Cowell said. “I think just having this tournament of county as our first official game lights a fire under the girls and gets them ready to go for the season. Especially when you draw Pioneer, it seems almost every year. It’s a very strong team, so our girls know they have to be ready to play. This gives us a good challenge.