South Lakes’ 2012 volleyball season got underway with a 3-1 loss to Westfield Wednesday, but the Seahawks, under sixth-year coach Cheri Hostetler, are looking to improve upon last year's 15-10 record.
With the loss of just four seniors from 2011, Hostetler remains optimistic that this year’s team can make an early-November push and compete for the competitive Liberty District title.
“One thing that we have is really great team chemistry,” said Hostetler. “That’s hard to get sometimes, but a good number of the players have played together now for a couple of years and we expect to have that as an advantage.”
The Seahawks will have to replace First Team All-Liberty District middle hitter and team captain Sarah Delaney, who now plays at James Madison University. Setters Christy Hoffman and Elise Cross have also moved on, leaving this year’s team thin at the setter position.
Seven starters are returning. Hostetler will look to senior outside hitters Chloe Traylor, Annemarie Bresson and Dory DeWeese to produce. She believes that all three are poised for great seasons. Breeson and DeWeese received honorable mention All-Liberty District honors last year.
“They’re going to do great,” she said. “We have a lot of options there with the three returning outside players. We also have an opposite hitter, Maddie Youngren, who is going to be a key [contributor] to the team as well.”
And while the Seahawks boast a deep and experienced outside hitter rotation, Hostetler firmly believes that her team’s strength lies elsewhere.
"Our attacking is definitely our strength,” she said. “We have strong attackers on every rotation. Sometimes when you rotate around, you end up with a weak rotation. We just don’t have that. We have strong hitters and a lot of good attacking players this year.”
The Seahawks will also debut two freshmen as starters after the duo impressed Hostetler and assistant coach John Farrell in practices. At 6-foot-1, Vela McBride caught Hostetler’s attention earlier this summer and the head coach fully expects the freshman to make an immediate impact.
“Vela McBride is going to be key,” Hostetler said. “She’s a 6-foot-1 hitter and setter and she’s going to be instrumental in our success this year. She’s probably one of the most coachable players we’ve seen in a long time. She’s fantastic.”
A scheduling conflict by Langley will force South Lakes to play a rare early-season district match on Sept. 6. But Hostetler believes that a victory against the formidable Saxons, who defeated South Lakes 3-1 last year, could prove invaluable as the season progresses.
“That [game] could start us off really strong,” she said. “If we can beat them early, that will set us up pretty well.”
South Lakes’ 15 wins in 2011 were the most in at least four seasons. The right mix of veteran leadership and experience, and the expected contributions from the team’s two new freshmen, could be the perfect ingredients for the Seahawks to win even more games this season.
“We’re expecting a great year,” Hostetler said. “Coach Farrell and I have been working them very hard and they’ve really fine-tuned their skills. I think they’ll have a great year. They’re very talented and as long as we can keep them focused, they’re going to do fantastic.”