GNADENHUTTEN --- The recent yearly improvement of the Indian Valley High volleyball program under coach Tammy Reynolds could continue in 2013 as the Lady Braves lost just one senior from last season's 15-9 squad.
Only departed defensive specialist Maddie Kennedy was lost to graduation and Reynolds will enjoy the services of eight returning letterwinners from a team which finished fourth in the Principals' Athletic Conference and advanced to the OHSAA Division III Sectional final before being ousted from post-season play by Ridgewood.
Among the returnees are a pair of juniors who netted first team all-PAC and all-District 5 post-season honors last fall -- Ashley Reynolds (5-11/middle hitter) and Sydney Kandray (5-6/setter).
Two seniors also earned post-season kudos last year. Harlie Crouse (5-4/defensive specialist) was named to District 5's second team and Bailey Stull (5-6/setter) was a District 5 honorable mention pick.
Another pair of seniors -- Devin Bell (5-7/outside hitter) and Brittani Garbrandt (5-4/setter) -- return as well as juniors Chesley Swaney (5-9/middle hitter) and Stefanie Risher (5-3/defensive specialist).
Completing the current varsity roster are senior Brooke Barr (5-7/outside hitter), junior Alicia Jenkins (5-7/outside hitter), sophomore Courtney Mizer (5-8/outside hitter) and freshman Cayleah Mitchell (5-7/outside hitter).
Coach Reynolds begins her 10th season as a head coach (had eight at Claymont) and third at IVHS. Her record for the Lady Braves is 27-21 after last year's mark backed up a 12-12 effort in 2011.
So far, she likes what she has seen from her kids.
"We did pretty well in our summer tourneys," Reynolds began, "and it looks like we will be a solid team in all areas of play.
"We have a good mix of skills and, right now, don't seem to have any glaring weaknesses," she continued. "We're not an overly tall team, but we have kids who jump well. Obviously, we have experience as well.
"I would say the two small concerns I have right now is finding a couple of other 'go-to' hitters besides Ashley (Reynolds) when we need a key kill and a lack of good communication among players on the floor at times."
In addition to the usual PAC opposition, Indian Valley replaced Newcomerstown on the schedule with perennial eastern Ohio D-II power River View.
"We feel we can compete for the PAC title," coach Reynolds continued, "and if we continue to work hard and improve, we can be competitive in post-season play."
That task will be a little more formidable as the Lady Braves' program has been elevated to D-II status for the foreseeable future.
The junior varsity squad includes sophs Samantha Hamilton, Sydney Sayre, Baily Menafee, Emily Smith, Sarah Mattison and Kristen Wenger along with freshmen Alisha Garbrandt, Baycee Oliver, Megan Baker and Taylor Williams.
The freshman team consists of Garbrandt, Allysa Parsons, Jade Phillips, Allison Shaw, Williams, Baker, Baycee Ohler, Ashley Tschudy and Chelsea Ohler.
The IV coaching staff included former Tusky Catholic mentor Linda Williams as the high school assistant. Tera Pryor returns to handle jayvee duties and Michele Eckstein is the freshman coach. Megan Holmes and Wendy Rummell direct the eighth grade and seventh grade teams, respectively.