A total of seven lettermen return for the Newcomerstown High Lady Trojans volleyball team as they look to improve upon last year's 5-18 record.
NHS head coach John Dupke enters his eighth season in charge of the Lady Trojans' volleyball program and he feels the team is ready to make a move this season.
"We have seven letterwinners back this year and are we're coming off a good off-season where the girls put in a lot of hard work," Dupke said. "We had a lot of girls who worked hard on their camp, playing Junior Olympic volleyball and playing summer league volleyball."
Headlining the returning Lady Trojans will senior middle hitter Cydney McMillan, a three-year letterwinner who earned first team all-Inter-Valley Conference and first team all-District 5 honors last season.
"Cydney is our go-to hitter," Dupke said. "She's very athletic who excels in three sports here at Newcomerstown. In addition to volleyball, she is the starting pitcher on the softball team and a three-time state qualifier in the pole vault. We look to her for leadership and a lot of our offense will run through her this year."
Two-year letterwinners returning include senior Aeriel Green and juniors Alicia Moore and Alyson Rexroad.
"Aeriel has been an outside hitter the last few years, but will be moving to defensive specialist this season," Dupke said. "She is very athletic and will help fill a void at that spot.
"We get a lot of experience back with Alicia returning as our setter," Dupke continued. "I'm looking for her to be a leader out on the floor, she's a very consistent performer for us. Alyson will be a middle hitter for us and also brings a lot of experience with her."
Rounding out the Lady Trojans lettermen are juniors Marlayna McIntire, Lydia Lehman and Jocelyn Lenhoff.
"I'm looking for Marlayna to provide some offense for us from her middle hitter spot," Dupke said. "She has plenty of athletic ability, she just needs to be more confident in her volleyball ability. I feel she's really ready to step up to the next level this year."
A pair of newcomers -- senior Kara Jenkins, a transfer student from Tuscarawas Central Catholic and freshman Karlee Peach --should add some needed punch to the lineup.
"Kara has returned for her senior season and we're glad to have here back," Dupke said. "She left here for TCC after her freshman season and now she's back. She will be an outside hitter and gives us a lot more flexibilty with our lineup. She also is a very athletic player who really makes us a stronger team."
Peach will play the setter position and gives Dupke some valuable depth behind Moore.
"Karlee has got some natural volleyball talent," Dupke said. "She is a big, strong kid who has some good hands for the setting position and will have an impact on the team this year."
A couple of strong areas entering the season for the Lady Trojans are in hitting and setting, according to Dupke.
"Our hitting should really be a strong area for us, Dupke said. "We start with Cydney, then we also have Alyson, Marlayna and Kara. That is a lot of firepower we can use if we an execute."
"I also feel good about our setting with Alicia and Karlee is an added bonus," Dupke said. "We should be strong in the serving department also as we have several different type of serves to can use. Some girls use the jump serve while some other are effective with a spot serve, getting the ball in different spots on the floor."
Rounding out the Lady Trojans' roster this year are junior Maci Bates; sophomores Kaira Wolf, Jocelyn Lenhoff, Sara Miller, Brandy Addy and Paige McMullen; and freshmen Riley Kellish, Jayde Bricker, Jorden Moore and Makenzie Moner.
Dupke's coaching staff includes junior varsity coach Lisa Ashbaugh while at the junior high level Andrea Nay will coach the seventh grade team and Beth McCune will handle the eighth grade.
Dupke feels Tuscarawas Central Catholic, coming off back-to-back state runner-up seasons, will once again be the team to beat in the Inter-Valley Conference.
"Of course TCC will be the team to beat," Dupke said. "They just have a real strong program, and I feel Ridgewood will be tough to handle and Garaway showed up last year and should be good."
"It will be a challenge every night out," Dupke added. "We just want to compete each time we take the floor. We will need to play our A-game every night. If we can do that, I'm confident we will be in there battling."
Newcomerstown hosts Garaway on Tuesday, Aug. 28 to open the season.