By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — With a defending state champion in the county, one question for the upcoming season is obvious.
With it being three-time state champion Miami East, the answer may just be, too.
There’s still plenty to consider this fall as the volleyball season prepares to get underway, and with all of the talented teams in Miami County, there’s questions across the board. So here’s five questions — four beyond the obvious one.
1) Will Miami East repeat as state champ?
In the last six years, the Vikings have won half of the state championships in Division III. In 2011 and 2012, Miami East won back-to-back titles, and then they won it again last season. Why not make a habit of going back-to-back?
Well, Miami East returns its two leading offensive players, who are also the team’s primary setters, in Jonni Parker and Kyndall Hellyer. Also back are the team’s two ball control experts in Sophie Jacomet and Gabrielle Hawkins, leaving the Vikings only needing to replace a few role players — in other words, they’re in a very similar situation to the 2012 team. Does that mean winning is a guarantee? Not necessarily. But it’s difficult not to call the Vikings the odds-on favorite.
2) Can Troy win another division title?
Last season, the question surrounding the Trojans was how they would deal with star Lauren Freed’s graduation. They went on to win a fifth straight Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division title came up one match short of another district title berth.
This year, Troy had another high-profile graduation entering the season in middle hitter Katie DeMeo, another Division I college player. But her backup last year, Gabbi Johnson, led the team in blocks, and the Trojans have returners on the outside, at setter and on defense, too. They’re entering the season once again as the favorite to win the division.
3) Can Tipp get back to the regional?
Two years ago, Tippecanoe won a district championship and reached the regional semifinal round. Last year, the Red Devils’ first as members of the GWOC, the team finished as runners-up in the American North Division and started the postseason with a pair of five-set matches — a win over Urbana, and then a loss in the sectional final to Ben Logan.
Tippecanoe may have graduated its offensive leaders from last year, but the team has three players returning that had 100-plus kills last year, giving it a balance that could help it in division play — the Devils are on of the contenders in the American North — and also the postseason this year.
4) Can Milton-Union win the SWBL?
Doc Ginn has built a winner with the Bulldogs. Milton-Union has won 30 games in the last two seasons combined, claiming a Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division title in 2015 — but finishing second behind Waynesville last year.
The Bulldogs will have to replace All-District setter Lauren Craig — who served a 25-0 game last year — and injuries have forced them to tinker with the position already. But Milton-Union does have some returning offensive punch and is hoping to contend for a division title again.
5) Who will be second in the CCC?
The aforementioned Miami East Vikings have won seven straight Cross County Conference titles, and they’re certainly the favorite once again. But who’s going to win the battle for No. 2?
Covington returns five players, including leading hitter Legend Patty. Newton returns its offensive leaders in hitter Maddie Hildebrand and setter Kacie Tackett, who led the CCC in assists last year. The past two seasons, the Buccaneers and Indians have battled for five games, with the Indians winning in 2015 and the Buccs coming out on top last season. Not to mention any number of out-of-Miami County teams that could be contenders.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.