39-game SHAC winning streak on the line for North Adams VB –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
For Coach Katie Ragan and her North Adams Lady Devils volleyball squad, the target is squarely on their backs as they march into the 2016 season, especially by the other teams in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. For the past three seasons, the Lady Devils have completely dominated SHAC play, riding a 39-game conference winning streak as this season begins, good. enough for three consecutive gold ball trophies. Coming off a 20-4 section championship season in 2015, the North Adams girls are looking for yet another encore performance when their season commences next week.
The Lady Devils return nearly all of their team from last year, only losing two-year starter Allyson Campton to graduation. “We will miss Allyson,” said Coach Ragan. “She provided a lot of good leadership for us.”
Leadership this season will come from the two seniors that the Lady Devils put on the court in Madison Jenkins and Maddie Toole, both of whom are four-year varsity starters.
“Madison provides us with very strong net play and has a nice jump serve that gets other teams out of their system,” says Ragan. “Maddie is our libero and covers a whole lot of ground in our back row. She is the anchor of our defense.”
The Lady Devils will bring a lot more experience to the court in 2016 as they look to extend their run of successful seasons. Coach Ragan has eight players on her varsity squad, the two seniors and six juniors. Four of those juniors started on the varsity last year. Another thing that stands out about the North Adams squad, and is noticed by other coaches in the league, is the height that the Lady Devils put on the court, beginning with the twin towers of Jenkins and junior Avery Harper. Those in attendance at North Adams matches can be guaranteed a plethora of kills and blocks with the talent and wing spans that the team can put around the net.
Ragan also has a dependable setter on hand, a position that is very important to the success of any volleyball squad. For the Lady Devils, the setter position will be handled by junior Sydney Kendall, who Ragan says “has the responsibility of getting all our hitters involved.” Also returning is junior Charlee Louden, another huge threat at the net who led the team last season in attacks and kills.
“I expect Charlee to be just as strong this year,” says Ragan. “She also is one of our top servers.”
One of the things that Ragan expects from her team is more communication, especially considering the fact that they have played together so long. “Sometimes I think (and hope) they can read each other’s minds,” says the North Adams head coach.
“We can be successful in 2016 if we play up to our abilities and not get intimidated by teams that have beaten us in the past. We just need to serve well and pass well, which gets us into our offense where we can get the ball to our hitters at the net.”
Though the Lady Devils have rolled through the SHAC for the past three seasons, Coach Ragan thinks there are some teams that could step up and challenge her squad and as she knows, “anything can happen on any given night.”
“I thought at the SHAC Preview, Lynchburg made some really nice plays against us and I think that Eastern Brown might be the most improved team from last year.”
With the unblemished conference mark for three seasons, the only losses the Lady Devils have suffered have come out of conference and in 2016, they will get a pair of early tests when their season opens on Aug. 23 at Southeastern Ross and then returns back to Seaman on Aug. 25 for a battle with a talented squad from Portsmouth Notre Dame. The SHAC schedule opens on Aug. 30 at home with Fayetteville and down the road, the Lady Devils face non-conference contests with Portsmouth West, Batavia, Eastern Pike, Huntington Ross, Portsmouth, Wheelersburg, and Northwest.