Coach: Jim Sample
Top players: Michelle Pujals, Sr.; Casey Crotty, Sr.
Comment: The Flames, who return a starting lineup that features five seniors, have gotten off to a fast start in the Delaney Athletic Conference, with a victory over last year's regular season and tournament champion Fredericksburg Christian in the season opener, and Thursday's victory over Notre Dame. "Five of the starters have played three years for me," Sample said. "They're in the system. They know what's going on. They know each other's strengths and bring a lot of talent to the floor."
Coach: Rick Moore
Top players: Jeanette Freitas, Sr.; Terri Slade, Fr.
Comment: Freitas, Evangel Christian's all-time assists leader, will make the jump from setter to outside hitter to help the team deal with the absence of three players who graduated. Freitas spent part of the summer at Maranatha Baptist College Volleyball Camp in Watertown, Wis., where she was named to the camp's all-star team. The switch should be little problem for Freitas, Moore said. "She's a natural athlete, and she's already the best passer on the team," Moore said. "And she's the best hitter on the team." Filling in for Freitas at setter will be freshman Slade, who Moore said "is as every bit as good as Jeanette was as a freshman."
Coach: Sue Shelton
Top players: Julia Jackson, Jr.; Katie Ratchford, Jr.; Jacie Roberts, Jr.; Stacey Siefje, Jr.
Comment: The Indians return six varsity players and will benefit from a talented junior class that includes middle hitter Jackson and outside hitter Ratchford. They should compete with Osbourn Park and Woodbridge for the Cardinal District title. Shelton returns as coach following longtime Coach Rosemary Garrett's retirement. "Rosemary's done a real good job getting the girls involved and playing [club] out of season," said Shelton, who had been an assistant with the Indians before taking off two years. "We're not making too many changes and plan to keep the girls comfortable with what they are used to."
Coach: Al Eaton
Top players: Melanie Thompson, Sr.; Toy Jackson, Sr.
Comment: Eaton hopes this season is a building block toward returning the Bulldogs to the level of success of past seasons, when Hylton was a perennial contender for the Cardinal District title. Leading the way for Hylton this season is Thompson, a 5-foot-7 outside hitter with a 33-inch vertical leap, and senior middle hitter Jackson. Besides those two, Hylton will field a young team. "We're young, and it's basically [see] as we go," said Eaton, a former All-Met Coach of the Year. "We played the [Hylton] tournament and showed a lot of strength and good stuff. But with a young team, that could be there one day and the next day they can look like they've never seen a volleyball in their life."
Coach: Mike Byers
Top players: Lindsay Stower, Sr.; Stephanie Helfrich, Sr.
Comment: The Eagles return six players including Stower and Helfrich, who will be looked to for the bulk of the Eagles' offense. "Where we go and what we do will be based upon how well they do," said Byers, who does feel that his team is deeper than it was last year. "We have 13 girls, and I don't have a problem playing any of them."
Coach: Dan Jones
Top players: Heather Capelli, Sr.; Chris Batson, Sr.; Megan Wilson, Sr.; Camille King, Jr.
Comment: The Yellow Jackets return the majority of a team that won the Cardinal District regular season and tournament titles, including the front-line trio of setter Capelli and outside hitters Batson and Wilson. "That was one of the easiest teams to coach last year, and there were very few problems I had to deal with," Jones said. "And what I've seen from the girls this year is that it is going to be even better." Among the younger players expected to contribute is middle hitter King, who was used last season for defensive purposes but should see more playing time this year.
Coach: Melissa Dowell
Top players: Cathie Hernandez, Sr.; Teresa Brewer, Sr.
Comment: Potomac proved to be one of the biggest surprises last season, knocking off Hylton in the quarterfinals of the Cardinal District tournament. The Panthers appear to picking up where they left off, defeating first-year program North Stafford in their season-opener this week. Although district coach of the year Michelle Heindrichs retired to have a baby, 1992 Potomac graduate Dowell plans to keep things rolling as the new coach. First-team all-district setter Hernandez returns to form a nice combination with middle hitter Brewer. "One thing I have already noticed about all of the team is that when you tell them something, they do it. They all are ready to work hard," Dowell said.
Coaches: Julie Bartlett, Keith Mesa
Top players: Leah Bishoff, Sr.; Tera Hamrick, Sr.
Comment: Coaches Julie Bartlett and Keith Mesa were pleased to see nearly the entire roster back from the team that placed second in the Delaney Athletic Conference regular season and tournament to Fredericksburg Christian. Leading the Warriors this season will be senior co-captains Bishoff and Hamrick. Added to the roster is senior transfer Tera Bell, a 5-11 setter from Camp Lejeune, N.C. "As a military base, you usually just try and work your system around your talent instead of really trying to put in a system," Mesa said. "But it hasn't been that tough this year because we didn't lose anybody. Nobody moved."
Coach: Ruth Allen
Top players: Kelly Huff, Soph.; Becca Walker, Soph.
Comment: The Raiders look to improve upon last season's record with a young lineup that will be lead by sophomores Huff (outside hitter) and Walker (outside hitter-setter). Stonewall already has had a successful preseason, winning scrimmages against Stafford and Annandale and placing second in its pool at the Hylton Tournament. "I'm looking toward us knowing that we can win," Allen said. "The self-confidence has been a very, very slow motivator."
Coach: Tiann Keesling
Top players: Bevin Gekosky, Sr.; Mary Schwenk, Jr.
Comment: Woodbridge was just one point away from defeating Osbourn Park in the Cardinal District tournament last season before the Yellow Jackets rallied for the win. The Vikings, who advanced to the Northwestern Region quarterfinals last season, achieved their success with a starting lineup consisting of two sophomores and a junior. With another year under their belt, the Vikings should be just as tough this season. Watch for middle hitters Gekosky and Schwenk to lead.
Note: Commonwealth District volleyball will be previewed next week.