High school girls volleyball preview

<p>About four or five years ago, Ashley Eck started to see the writing on the wall regarding her volleyball future.</p><p>&quot;I started off as a hitter in middle school,&quot; she recalled, &quot;and then that didn’t really work out, and I realized that all of the girls were a lot taller than me, so I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to try back row,’ and I was pretty good at it.&quot;</p><p>Now a Center Grove senior, Eck has gotten more than pretty good. A second-team All-State selection as a junior libero, she’s again set to anchor a rock-solid defense for a Trojan team with state championship aspirations.</p><p>Much like offensive linemen in football, the greatest contributions from defensive specialists and liberos usually go unnoticed. If you’re not singling them out, it’s probably  a good indication that they’re doing their primary job well — not letting the ball hit the floor.</p>[sc:text-divider text-divider-title="Story continues below gallery" ]<p>Eck is remarkably consistent on that front. She had just 25 serve-receive errors last season in 603 chances, far and away the best percentage and the highest volume on the team. She also paced the Trojans in digs by a wide margin with 426, and threw in 102 assists for good measure, the most by any of Center Grove’s non-setters.</p><p>That steadiness is just one of many qualities that Trojans coach Chris Due loves about Eck.</p><p>&quot;She has an amazing court presence,&quot; he said. &quot;Her court awareness is top notch. It’s tough for the other team to score the ball against her — setters trying to dump the ball on her, people trying to tip on her or just swing on her in general. She covers a lot of ground in the back row, and she does a really good job of anticipating where the hitters are going to swing and always putting herself in a position to make plays.&quot;</p><p>Casual fans might not notice those types of plays the way they do the highlight-reel moments produced by hitters and setters, but Eck has her share of admirers. In addition to earning the respect of the high school coaches last season and getting an All-State nod, she also caught the eye of the staff at Indiana State, where she has committed to play a year from now.</p><p>Having the recruiting process out of the way takes a lot of pressure off of Eck’s shoulders and enables her to put all of her energy this fall into closing her high school career out in style.</p><p>&quot;Since all of us are just so close and we’re all really good friends, we just want to do this for each other and for ourselves,&quot; said Eck, one of nine Trojan seniors. &quot;We know what we have to do at this point, and it’s just a matter of working hard every day in the gym.&quot;</p>[sc:pullout-title pullout-title="Scouting Johnson County’s volleyball teams" ][sc:pullout-text-begin]<p><strong>Center Grove Trojans</strong></p><p>Coach: Chris Due</p><p>Last season: 27-7, won Johnson County, MIC and sectional championships; lost to Providence in Class 4A regional semifinal</p><p>Key returnees: Averie Baker, Jada Beetz, Jamie Brown, Ashley Eck, Madison Hammill, Lindsay Howard, Anna Line, Calista Stafford and Reagan Thomas, seniors; Grace Boggess and Rylie McMahen, junior; Katie Egenolf, sophomore</p><p>Outlook: With nine seniors returning, including several who have been varsity regulars since their freshman season, the Trojans are loaded up for another successful campaign. With one of the nation’s elite setters in Hammill, a solid back line and two Division I recruits at middle blocker in Brown and Boggess, expectations are as high as always. Stafford, who led the team in kills last season, is recovering from knee surgery and won’t be back until late August, but Center Grove has plenty of potential go-to options to hold the fort until she returns. If healthy, this team has a chance to make good on its state title aspirations.</p><p><strong>Edinburgh Lancers</strong></p><p>Coach: Kilah Dickey</p><p>Last season: 1-26; did not play in state tournament</p><p>Key returnees: Paige Burton and Emily Chappelow, seniors; Kaylee Swallows, junior; Carly Cowan, sophomore</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Gracie Crawhorn and Gracie Myers, freshmen</p><p>Outlook: Last season was a rough one for the Lancers, who ended the year unable to play in the sectional because there were just five healthy players available. With 12 girls out this fall, new coach Dickey feels like the team is on more solid ground. There’s still a long climb back before Edinburgh is a contender of any kind, but the hope is that at least some sort of foundation can be laid down this year.</p><p><strong>Franklin Grizzly Cubs</strong></p><p>Coach: Roxanne Chapman</p><p>Last season: 27-8, won Mid-State Conference championship; lost to Center Grove in Class 4A sectional final</p><p>Key returnees: Maddy Durst and Hillari Hensley, seniors; Kabria Chapman, Cami Kelsay and Megan Thompson, juniors; Hailey Haldeman, sophomore</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Kyra Baker and Lauren Sandrock, juniors</p><p>Outlook: The Grizzly Cubs have dominated the Mid-State in recent years but might be vulnerable after losing All-State setter Brooke Phillips, now playing at Lipscomb University. Franklin’s cupboard isn’t totally bare; Kabria Chapman and Kelsay were 1-2 on the team in kills last season. If the team can solidify its back row and get the ball to that pair consistently, it could be another productive season.</p><p><strong>Greenwood Woodmen</strong></p><p>Coach: Amanda Ratliff</p><p>Last season: 12-16; lost to Franklin in Class 4A sectional semifinal</p><p>Key returnees: Megan Johns and Joy Maze, seniors; Anna Cruser, Siena Halfaker and Ashlee Walton, juniors</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Katie Meier, junior; Mya Ayro and Ella Dean, freshmen</p><p>Outlook: With a nice mix of returning veterans and talented youth creating more competitive practices this preseason, Ratliff is optimistic about the upcoming campaign and feels her squad is ready to turn hard work into tangible results. With the Mid-State Conference looking a bit more wide open than it has been lately, there could be a window there for the Woodmen to contend.</p><p><strong>Greenwood Christian Cougars</strong></p><p>Coach: Tasha Vessely</p><p>Last season: 13-20; lost to Indianapolis Lutheran in Class A sectional championship</p><p>Key returnees: Jessica Miller, Lily Rastenburg and Zoey Schaeffer, seniors; Hannah Farley, Riley Ratliff and Izzy Reed, juniors; Maggie Booher and Dorothy O’Dell, sophomores</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Mayah Schundelmier, junior; Olivia Shingleton, freshman</p><p>Outlook: The Cougars will have to adjust to their fourth coach in as many seasons, but with six regulars back from a team that reached the sectional final, Vessely will have some tools to work with. Reed and Miller were the team’s go-to hitters last fall and will be again, while Ratliff and Booher will likely split the setting duties. Schundelmier is expected to help in the middle. There could be some lumps early, but GCA hopes to contend for conference and sectional titles.</p><p><strong>Indian Creek Braves</strong></p><p>Coach: Andi Ferris</p><p>Last season: 18-12; lost to Danville in Class 3A sectional final</p><p>Key returnees: Avery Hensley, senior; Jessie Hart and Makenna Hogue, juniors; Ava McClanahan, sophomore</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Hailey Burkett, Kayla Lemmon, Korrah Martin and Cordelia Mockler, seniors; Haley Bramlett, Delaney Heminger and Hannah Smith, juniors; Emilee Scott, sophomore</p><p>Outlook: Shaking off some key graduation losses, Ferris is trying to focus on the team’s goals ahead, which again include contending for conference and sectional titles. With four regulars back and Martin ready to return after missing last season due to injury, there’s a solid veteran base in place that should have some decent depth behind it. Some new stars will have to emerge, but the potential is there for a winning year.</p><p><strong>Whiteland Warriors</strong></p><p>Coach: Jill Cain</p><p>Last season: 13-18; lost to Martinsville in first round of Class 4A sectional</p><p>Key returnees: Toni Joyner and Abigail Savin, seniors; Sarah Scott, junior; Lindsey Jones, sophomore</p><p>Newcomers to watch: Isabella Jackson, junior; Grace Meluskey and Allie Peters, sophomores; Haley Kunz, freshman</p><p>Outlook: The Warriors took a big step forward last fall, and new coach Cain is optimistic that they can continue that upward trajectory despite the loss of six seniors. Joyner and Scott were all mainstays a year ago, and the sophomores will be expected to carry a much larger share of the workload, as will freshman setter Kunz. Cain is shooting for a 20-win season and a possible run to the sectional final; if Whiteland can keep building confidence and consistently close games out, those goals may be within reach.</p>[sc:pullout-text-end]