It’s a brave new Washington County high school volleyball world.
For two years, the talk of the county — and rightfully so — was Smithsburg’s unstoppable juggernaut.
Led by two-time Herald-Mail Player of the Year Sara Rishell — currently unleashing her ferocious spikes as a freshman for American University — the Leopards went undefeated on the way to Maryland Class 1A state titles in both 2009 and 2010 and will bring a 38-match winning streak into this season.
But it’s a new year and largely a new squad for Smithsburg. The Leopards may have enough to contend again in 1A, but within the MVAL Antietam, North Hagerstown and Williamsport figure to be the top contenders for conference glory — at least on paper.
“We scrimmaged North and we didn’t beat them, but we played well and they were a good measuring stick,” Smithsburg coach Rachel Brashear said. “North and Williamsport will be two teams to reckon with. We’ll try to keep improving and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Hubs — who went 12-4 last year and came within a point of ending the Leopards’ unbeaten streak late in the regular season — return two of their top three attackers in senior Autumn Fisher and junior Peyton Wallech, as well as their top setter, Brynne Kirsch.
The Wildcats — who went 11-5 last year and showed flashes of brilliance (along with consistency issues) — welcome back their top two attackers in senior Sam Kelly and junior Stacey Christy.
Both North and Williamsport are stepping up in class — the Hubs to 3A from 2A, and the Wildcats to 2A from 1A.
Andrea Parry returns to the bench after missing last season while on maternity leave. The Warriors went 6-10 last year under Andrea Sawtelle — who resumes her duties as the JV coach.
Defense will remain Boonsboro’s calling card — led by senior Tiffany Rohrer, an all-county first-team honoree in 2010. Senior Amber Myers also is scrappy in the back.
“We feel really confident that defense is going to be our strongest asset,” Parry said. “We want to bring the offense around a little more so it makes us a more balanced team. Tiffany does a very nice job being a leader and taking charge. She reads hitters very well and is able to get a touch on just about any ball.”
Juniors Shelby Griffith and Shelby Wallace will share setting duties in a 6-2 set, and they’ll look to set up senior Sydney Parks inside and senior Aurelie King outside. Freshman Taylor Williams could make an impact in the middle.
“It’s going to be a little better attacking-wise,” Parry said. “Sydney’s definitely become a leader and a smart player. She’s able to see the court, and she sets up a solid block. She’s stepped out of her shell from her sophomore year. ... Tayor is definitely a future player to watch.”
The Lions had a solid season for Joe Cartwright in 2010, finishing 13-6. They lost three key pieces from that team but return a couple key pieces as well.
The attack should be led by junior Sarah Couch outside and senior Maria Pifer inside.
“I moved Sarah outside as one of our better attacking options,” Cartwright said. “I’m expecting a lot out of them all the way around, even in the back row.”
Broadfording will play a 6-2 set with senior setters Katie Connolly — a standout on the basketball court — and Anne Hunt.
Washington County Volleyball 2011: Hubs, Wildcats look to unseat Smithsburg
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