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Volleyball preview: Mt. Vernon

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Mt. Vernon

LAST SEASON: 23-10, 5-2 HHC

Hancock County Tournament champions; lost in Sectional 26 semifinal to eventual 3A state runner-up Chatard

KEY PLAYERS (with grade, position):

Ellie Balbach (12) RS/S

Emily White (11) L/S

Abby Glazier (11) DS

Aubri Benbow (10) DS

Mary Grace Ertel (9) RS/S

Sydney Shelton (9) OH

Shelby Blair (10) OH

Sara Lyday (12) MH

Lexi Reasor (11) MH

Lauren James (11) DS

Kayla Grubaugh (11) OH

Head coach: Kris Lashaway (6th season)

If the Marauders win a third straight Hancock County championship on Oct. 6, or their fourth sectional title since 2007 later that month, these 2012 Marauders will look nothing like their dominant predecessors.

Mt. Vernon is essentially starting over this fall. Gone is two-time county player of the year Jenna Amundson, two-time all-county selection Jesse Earl, six-foot-2 middle hitter Erica Moore, plus three other rotation players that graduated in the spring alongside Amundson. Earl, a junior, transferred to Lawrence North and Moore, also a junior, is concentrating on basketball.

“I’ve been through this once before,” MV coach Kris Lashaway said. “After my first year (2007), we graduated seven (players) and I only had one varsity returning, and that was Kayla Negley.

“I’m kind back in the same boat, I just don’t have the same kind of players coming in as I did (in 2008).”

Amundson was a freshman in 2008 and, while the current squad doesn’t feature anyone with the former right-side/setter’s natural volleyball ability, there are bright spots.

Freshman Sydney Shelton is an all-around talent, set to star on the basketball court this winter. She’ll line up at outside hitter for the spikers.

“She’s new to volleyball, but she’s coming on strong,” Lashaway said. “She’s all about basketball, which is understandable. But, she’s a tremendous athlete. And now that her focus is on volleyball, she’s really improving every day.

“She’s going to make strides throughout the season.”

Mt. Vernon’s most reliable hitter, however, figures to be Ellie Balbach, who is joined by defensive specialist Lauren James as the only returning MV players who saw significant varsity action in 2011.

Balbach will be at right-side/setter in the Marauders’ 6-2 offensive formation.

“No one can replace Jenna, but Ellie has really stepped up in that same role,” Lashaway said. “She’s going to be who we turn to when we need a big play.

“And she’s the only one who was been through the system all the way. So there’s a lot of pressure on her to lead and bring everyone else up to speed.”

MV’s other right-side/setter is freshman Mary Grace Ertel. Emily White, a junior libero, will also be in the setting mix, Lashaway said.

Among the other newcomers is sophomore Shelby Blair, who will man an outside hitting position.

“She’s a lefty, and it’s unusual to put a lefty (at outside hitter), but she’s been making a difference there,” Lashaway said.

Sara Lyday, the Marauders’ only senior besides Balbach, will help out at middle hitter, along with junior Lexi Reasor.

Kayla Grubaugh (junior outside hitter), Abby Glazier (junior defensive specialist) and Aubri Benbow (sophomore defensive specialist) complete the varsity lineup.

Most of the Mt. Vernon unit is up from last year’s junior varsity team.

With an influx of new faces, Lashaway didn’t make any county tourney or sectional predictions.

“We’re rebuilding, so everything is totally new to everybody,” she said. “The hardest step to overcome is to get everyone gelling, get everything rolling in the same direction.

“Once we overcome that newness, we’ll be okay.”

First serve: Hamilton Heights edged Mt. Vernon 25-17, 17-25, 25-16, 27-25, 15-9 in the season-opener Tuesday. Balbach led the way with 13 kills and 13 assists, while Ertel posted eight kills, 14 assists and five aces. The Marauders were scheduled to host Lawrence North Thursday before traveling to the Ritter Invitational on Saturday.

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