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Philip Barbour, Liberty to contend for Big 10 title

by Greg Talkington


(September 6) The Big 10 Conference volleyball race should see keen competition in 1998 with several teams returning key performers from 1997.

Philip Barbour returns league player of the year Jessica Maunz along with a host of other returnees, making the Colts the frontrunners for the conference crown and a likely trip to the state tournament.

But Liberty returns virtually its entire team and with the influx of a talented freshman class, could challenge.

South Harrison, which started three freshmen last season, should also be strong despite the departure of multi-talented Amber Morrison, while Robert C. Byrd features a roster filled with tall, experienced players.

Bridgeport should field a competitive team although several of the younger players decided to give soccer a shot this year.

Lincoln, which won just one match in 1997, should improve significantly with four returning starters while Grafton, which won just two matches, loses most of its starters.

· BRIDGEPORT: New coach Becky Sabatelli has taken a wait-and-see attitude.

"We lost some good players from last year's team, including three who decided to play soccer this year," Sabatelli said. "But we've got some good kids who I think will respond to the challenge."

Heading that list is her daughter, Renee. The power-hitting senior is a four-year starter.

Others competing for starting slots include juniors Kristin Kelly, Krista Romesburg, Kelly Gray, Janelle Kight and Sabrina Anderson and sophomore Jan Sabatelli.

Juniors Stephanie Scott and Heather Bennett should see some playing time while freshman Adrienne Belcastro could contribute in her first season.

Sophomore Amanda Green was scheduled to see action, but injured a knee and could miss some or all of the season.

The Indians are home against Buckhannon-Upshur on Tuesday.

· GRAFTON: Third-year coach Allen DiPiano faces a major rebuilding task.

"We got some quickness and we plan to use it," DiPiano said. "Our goal is to not let anything hit the floor.

"I really think we'll be pretty good on defense."

The starting six appears set.

It includes Tiffany Sayers, Lori Shay, Shannon Glaspell, Sheena Zbosnik, Ashly Miller and Kendra Andrews.

Others expected to see time include Julie Lipscomb, Amber Miller and Linda Pinnell.

The Bearcats begin their season Thursday at North Marion.

· LIBERTY: Veteran coach Susie Hilton welcomes nearly everyone back from last season's sectional championship team.

"We've played real well in scrimmages," Hilton said.

"In our last one, we seemed really sure of ourselves so I think we're ready for a good season."

Five starters return from the 1997 squad.

They include seniors Christina Lane and Gena Matheny and juniors Patricia Savina, Lauren Todd and Audra Hamrick. Junior letterman J.K. Swick will step into fill the remaining starting slot.

Senior Michelle Allen and juniors Catherine Fazinni and Stephanie Matthey will add depth.

Liberty opens play Tuesday when it entertains Preston.

n LINCOLN: Jeanne Yednak's Cougars won just one match in 1997, but figures to improve quite a bit on that number this season.

The reason: Yednak welcomes back two full-time starters and two part-timers from '97.

Seniors Angie Matheny and Kelly Burnett begin their third season as starters.

"They are the team leaders," Yednak said. "I think they're primed for outstanding seasons and we should be better as a team."

Senior Charlotte Davis and sophomore Lacy Pill shared time last season and should be ready to make significant contributions.

Juniors Jamie Toothman and Josie Hedrick round out the starting lineup.

Senior Lori Bartlett and juniors Anna Yost and Lisa Gronau will add depth.

The Cougars begin their season at North Marion on Tuesday.

· PHILIP BARBOUR: Another trip to the state tournament is possible for the Colts, thanks to the return of Maunz and two other starters from last season's team which lost just three matches.

Coach Debbie Spears believes a big year is ahead.

"I think we might be stronger than we've been in the past," Spears said.

"I think our biggest challenge will be to stay mentally focused," Spears said.

The 5-foot-9 Maunz, a power hitting senior, along with seniors Erin Price (5-6) and Sara Nestor (5-7) are the top returnees.

Letterwinners from last season vying for starting slots include Sara Jones (6-0, junior), Cassie Shaffer (5-6, senior), Jill Michette (5-8, senior) and Jennifer McElwain (5-6, senior)

Two other girls contending for starting roles who didn't play are Amy Markley (5-10, senior) and Ashley Corley (6-2, sophomore).

The Colts visit Robert C. Byrd on Tuesday.

· ROBERT C. BYRD: Interim coach Chuck Critchfield thinks the Eagles are ready to fly with a roster that features six girls 5-foot-9 or taller.

"We do have some size and most of those girls will see some action," Critchfield said.

Heading the list of hitters are returning starters senior Cherra Richards (5-9) and junior Katie Critchfield (5-11).

Others who will see action include senior Kim Richison (5-11), juniors Heather Coleman (5-7), Sheena Parsons (5-10) and Rebekah Lamm (5-8).

Leading the list of setters are seniors Stacy Hall (5-5) and Shawna Elder (5-5). Seniors Amy Cosner (5-3) and Shawna DeFazio (5-4) should see plenty of action.

The Eagles started their season with a victory over East Fairmont last Thursday.

Debbie Bastin is expected to take over the squad as soon as the results of her coaching test are finalized.

· SOUTH HARRISON: The Hawks return a bevy of talent, led by junior Hope West and sophomore Bobbi Jo Devericks.

Coach Bernie Hurst is keeping his fingers crossed this duo can stay injury free.

"Hope has been battling a recurring knee problem and Bobbi Jo broke her foot near the end of last season and seems to have recovered," Hurst said. "Hopefully, they'll be able to go the entire season."

Both are as adept at setting as they are at hitting and Devericks has grown another inch to nearly 5-11 since last year.

Other likely starters include junior Clenta Bond (5-6), sophomore Sarah Byrd (5-6), sophomore Emily Barker (5-7) and senior Nikki Godfrey (5-7).

First-year junior player Casey Davisson (5-6) has come on strong and could end up starting before the year is done.

Other who could see action are Jessica Little and Jennifer Martin. Hurst is also high on freshmen Megan Davis and Desiree Evans.