McARTHUR — The greatest volleyball senior class in Vinton County history has one final chapter to write this season.
Over the last three years, the Vikings behind this group of talented players have amassed an impressive 59-15 record, including a pair of TVC and sectional titles.
Now with a completed loaded team featuring 10 seniors, their focus throughout the summer has been about having more offensive balance and options.
“We’ve made some changes offensively to give us more hitting options at the net,” Vinton County coach Ashley Ervin said. “In a way, it creates a problem because you want everyone to get their touches, but it’s a great problem to have especially with the hitters we have because everyone is more than capable of putting the ball straight down.”
Four-year starters Cameron Zinn, Lacy Ward, Sydney Smith and Kerrigan Ward all return to the floor after guiding the Vikings to 21 wins last season.
Zinn ended last season with 732 assists, including career assist No. 2,000 alongside 212 digs, 127 kills, 86 aces and 24 blocks.
“We need Cam as our setter, but we’re also getting her some chances at the net to hit the ball because she’s such a dynamic player,” Ervin said. “She can put the ball anywhere on the floor and when it goes up, she’ll find a way to get it.”
Smith ended as the team’s leader in kills for the third straight season with 351 to go with 168 digs, 56 aces and 14 blocks, while Lacy Ward had 293 kills, 145 digs and 51 aces.
Kerrigan Ward makes her money defensively from her libero position, where she ended the season with 401 digs, including No. 1,000 for her career to go with 43 aces.
Those four are joined by Zoey Kiefer, Taylor Houdasheldt, Mika McFadden, Tegan Bartoe, Lacie Williams, Emily Phillips and the lone freshman on the team, Jordyn Zinn.
Kiefer made her game more well-rounded last season and returns to her middle hitter position following 142 kills, 46 digs, 34 aces and a team-high 30 blocks.
Houdasheldt registered 135 digs and 42 aces from the back row and McFadden added 161 digs.
“We have to make sure our passing is on point every single night and it starts with the back row,” Ervin said. “They’ve done a great job setting us up to run our offense in the past, but we need to take that next step collectively and keep everything razor sharp.”
Though Bartoe hasn’t played volleyball at the high school level, she brings some added athleticism and will slide into a role as middle hitter.
Williams returns after not playing for the past couple years, and although she might not play as much according to Ervin, she still brings a huge, yet highly underrated element to the team.
“Lacie is a huge energizer on the bench, and I think it says a lot about her that she understands there might not be as much playing time on the floor but she can still have an impact,” Ervin said. “It takes a lot for any competitor to realize that, and it’s so valuable to have someone like that in your locker room and team huddles.”
When it’s not Cameron Zinn setting the ball up, it’ll be her younger sister Jordyn Zinn handling some setting duties as she’ll see some varsity action and get acclimated to the speed of the game.
“Jordan has done a great job throughout the summer and won a competition to earn her spot on varsity,” Ervin said. “It’ll be valuable experience for her this year and moving forward.”
For the past two seasons, the district semifinal has been the major hurdle the Vikings haven’t been able to get by just yet.
And with one final chance to reach that district final they crave, it’s all or nothing now.
“Winning TVC is the first step, followed by winning another sectional,” Ervin said. “But it all starts with day-by-day improvement and finding ways to be better. We want that district championship and this is out best shot to do it, but we won’t beat teams like Sheridan staying how we are. We have to be more aggressive, yet play smarter and do the little things right.”
Vinton County opens its season on Aug. 23 at Warren.