Hill Pearsall is back for his 18th season as head coach at Topsail High School with a career record of 286-126 in Hampstead. Last year, the Pirates finished 12-9 overall and 6-6 in the split 3A/4A Mideastern Conference.
Returning letter winners from 2014 are Victoria Elder, Payton Shoenleber, Madi Ford, Marlee Marrotta and Haley Woods.
“I think we have good senior leadership and some height this year and we hope to capitalize on it,” said Pearsall. “There are a lot of new faces and we’ve pulled up some sophomores, so team cohesion and trust is going to be a big factor in our success early on.
“Our goal is always to be in contention for a conference title, but it’s a pretty tough league from top to bottom.”
Looking to improve off their 7-5 mark in conference last season, Seneca Redwood-Sawyerr and his Lady Bucs have been working hard to improve their offensive attack, while playing at a faster more aggressive pace.
Redwood-Sawyerr guided Laney to a 11-9 record in his first year taking over for legendary coach Ruby Sutton, but believes his team has a chance to make noise atop a competitive 3A/4A conference.
One of the Bucs’ vocal leaders is back for another year as outside hitter Hannah Freas looks to take Laney to the next level.
“Hannah remains positive no matter what happens,” said Redwood-Sawyerr. “She has improved tremendously on her swing and will be seen playing all around throughout some matches. Haleigh Somberg won our defensive player award last season and we hope she can continue to build off her great play from last year and make us an even better defensive team.”
Joining Freas at outside hitter and expected to play a big role in the Bucs’ offense is Skyler Curran. Redwood-Sawyerr has challenged Curran to take more of a leadership role, while Alex Erling is returning as the primary setter heading into her junior year.
“We hope that Alex will take over the offense this year and fill some big shoes left by Rosie Faddoul,” said Redwood-Sawyerr. “One other rising junior to keep an eye on is Meredith Pooley as our defensive specialist. We will rely heavily on her to continue to grow and keep us together.”
After serving as volleyball coach at Murray Middle School, Carly Noble takes over the ranks as head of the Ashley varsity program. The Lady Screaming Eagles return eight players to the roster, including seven seniors.
“We have such a strong offense this year and with seven returning seniors, I feel like we have very strong and experienced hitters,” said Noble. “With this, we have incorporated a stronger offense into our rotation, setting us up for more attacks.”
Haley France, Katherine Boudreau, Hope Mason and Taylor Butts will be called upon in the Ashley attack, while Morgan Targhetta transitions to libero, looking to stabilize the Ashley defense.
“Haley is a very strong defense and offense combo on the net,” Noble added. “She has such a quick reaction time in play, which makes her an all-around valuable player on the court. Morgan is everywhere, always covering/assisting and involved in each play, while Katherine is probably our strongest server and an underclassman.”
Shandal Menezes and Alanna Brantley are also expected to contribute to Screaming Eagles success this season, along with newcomers Samantha Luscher, Kaycie Dotson, Savannah Yates, and Kalyn Eason.
“Our main area of focus this preseason has been on the defensive side,” Noble added. “With a new rotation, our biggest learning point this season has been new areas of coverage.”
After just one conference victory in 2014, Mark Hafer is excited about of the possibilities heading into a new season with nine letter winners returning to the floor. While the Wildcats seem to be well-rounded offensively and defensively, the third-year head coach believes communication will play an important role in New Hanover’s success.
“We took our fair share of lumps over the last two seasons, but I think right now we have a good nucleus,” said Hafer. “I was hired to take a broken program and turn it around three years ago and maybe a little optimistic last season and it didn’t work out from a win/loss standpoint. This year most of the girls I’m the only person they’ve know as their coach so we’re starting to blossom.”
Joining the Wildcats this season are three transfer students, who are expected to contribute right away and keep New Hanover competitive in a well-rounded Mideastern Conference.
“We have what I think will be a winning program,” Hafer added. “I’m looking forward to see how things shake out, but been impressed with our play so far.”
Like any team that has struggled, it takes a specific mindset and confidence to make the next step and the Wildcats are eager to show off their hard work and dedication they’ve put in over the last few years.
“We are developing chemistry and confidence that I believe will make us contenders this season,” said Hafer.
Team roster: Emily Andrews, Cecilia Beard, Kenna Casto, Sara Caison, Aria Dance, Sidney Eavy, Alyssa Gowdy, Autumn James, Courtney Loughran, Eleni Stoycos, Olivia Backston, Paris Backston, Julia Rhine, Anarah Butcher, Anna Cameron, Coleen Martinez
As second year coach Morgan Farroll continues to build off an up and down season in 2014, North Brunswick has been working hard to stay relevant in the 2A East Central Conference, with the expectation of finishing in the top three.
“This year’s team is a quick group of ladies and a hard working group,” said Farroll. “They help push each other to be better, which is a great thing to have. We do lack a little size, but what we lack in size we make up for in speed and versatility.
“Croatan is always a strong team, and I believe East Duplin will be as well. I expect us to be in the top three in the conference.”
Middle blocker Valeria Renna and outside hitter Kaylee Scoggins continue to guide the ship this season as the team’s leaders in kills and blocks last season. Aliah Johnson has made the jump from junior varsity and will serve as setter, while also contributing on the defensive side of play for the Scorps.
Farroll also believes Claire Longshore, Tasia Bolling and Unique Hines will play an important part in the North Brunswick success along with sophomores Alleigh Himes and Bailey Evans.