LAST SEASON: 9-23
Lost in 2A Sectional 41 semifinal to Cambridge City Lincoln.
KEY PLAYERS (with grade, position):
Lauren Harmon (11) MB
Beka Dickmander (12) OH
Melissa Bedell (10) OH/OPP
Emily Jeffries (12) MB
Tori Bednarski (12) DS
Jordian Eastes (12) S
Hannah Best (11) DS/L
Lytia Vanderpool (11) DS
Frannie Stephenson (12) OH
Emily Reger (11) DS
Head coach: Mike Eastes (2nd season)
With nine upperclassmen, including five seniors, among their top 10 players, the Royals are the most veteran volleyball club in Hancock County.
It’s unclear if EH can compete with its big-school neighbors, but by and large, the Royals should be competitive.
“I think even better than that,” said EH coach Mike Eastes when asked if his team might post a .500 record after going 9-23 last year. “I can see a 20-win season.”
Eastes’ confidence is supported by the return of junior middle back Lauren Harmon, the team’s leading hitter last season with 117 kills, senior setter Jordian Eastes (480 assists), senior outside hitter Beka Dickmander (87 kills), sophomore outside hitter/opposite side Melissa Bedell (87 kills), senior middle back Emily Jeffries (65 kills), senior defensive specialist Tori Bednarski (295 digs) and junior defensive specialist/libero Hannah Best (251 digs).
“They’ve all improved,” said Eastes, in his second year as head coach. “We played 30 games this summer and a lot of them played club volleyball.
“They’re all a little better, and they’re also more familiar with me and my system now.”
As if the large contingent of varsity returnees wasn’t enough, the Royals have an added bonus in senior outside hitter Frannie Stephenson, a transfer from Greenfield-Central. Stephenson will be eligible to play for the Royals on Aug. 23, which is also the day EH visits G-C for a match.
Stephenson will help make up for the loss of Taylor Mercer (110 kills) and Liz Carlton (58 kills) to graduation.
“Frannie is going to be a big asset,” Eastes said.
Rounding out the Royals’ varsity unit are junior defensive specialists Lytia Vanderpool and Emily Reger and sophomores Katelyn Bowman, Nakayla Shelton and Annalee Witte.
First serve: The Royals downed Mid-Hoosier Conference foe Morristown 25-13, 27-29, 25-13, 25-14 Tuesday in their debut. Harmon, Dickmander and Bedell combined for 46 kills, Best registered eight aces and 45 digs, Eastes had 53 assists, Jeffries had six blocks and Bednarski picked up 28 digs.