LACROSSE

Last year: 5-21 (1-6 Porter County Conference)

Key losses: None.

Key returners: Emily Leffew, Sr., S; Katie Bell, Sr., OH; Shay Rogers, Sr., OH; Ashley Vernon, Sr., MH; Morgan Wozniak, Sr., S; Kaylee Welkie, Jr.; Emily Pontbriand, Jr., DS.

Key newcomers: Jersie Bartels, So., UTIL; Rain Walker, Jr.; Kelsey Rennier, Jr.; Hailey O'Brien, So.; Sami Vance, Sr., OH.

Outlook: The Tigers go seven-deep in seniors, a rarity at such a small school, though the loss of top returning hitter and blocker Claire Garwood to a torn ACL is a big blow. "They have played together for a long time and play very well together as team," coach Rob Bramlett said. Bell and Welkie were next in line in kills last season, and Bramlett expects additional offensive punch from Rogers, Vernon and Wozniak, who moved from setter to hitter late last season. "Ashley has worked hard and improved her game tremendously over the summer," Bramlett said. "Morgan is becoming a stronger hitter." Bartels will play every position at some point except setter, which is held down by Leffew, the team's floor leader. Vance is making the transition from a setter on JV to a hitter and passer on varsity. "The girls as a team, are very strong servers," Bramlett said. "We are a really good team in all aspects of the game and these girls have worked so hard to get to where they are now. Expectations for me as a coach is to be at the top of our conference at the end of the season."

MARQUETTE CATHOLIC

Last year: 16-17.

Key losses: Bri Moyer, Isabella Pacheco, Maggie Williams, Abby Henderson.

Key returners: Ryleigh Grott, Jr., MH; Sara Molina, Sr., MH; Ally McConnell, Sr., OH; Emily Lasky, Sr., RS.

Key newcomers: Julia Molina, So., RS: Jenna Kirby, So., S.

Outlook: The Blazers gained some traction last season as coach Matt Zima saw an increase in both talent and interest, and the trend continued throughout the spring and summer. "Now the question is whether or not this veteran group can compete with the upper tier of teams in the area," he said. "There is quality depth at every position as well as a bevy of good attacking players." After a one-and-done postseason in 2018, Zima sees better prospects for this year. "If they keep working hard both on and off the court, the sky's the limit," he said. "Indeed, I would love to see them make a deep run in October."

MICHIGAN CITY

Last year: 30-8 (9-5 DAC), Class 4A Hobart Sectional champion, La Porte Regional runner-up.

Key losses: Emily Kinney, Hannah Noveroske.

Key returners: Reece Shirley, Sr., S/OPP; Aaliyah Briggs, Sr., MH; Alexa Sparks, Jr., S; OPP.

Key newcomers: Sela VanBuskirk, So., DS

Outlook: The Wolves graduated plenty of front line power and new coach Jim Kaufman has to find other ways to be successful. "The program has great momentum that we hope to keep riding," he said. "We don't have the height that we had, but the girls are working hard to make up in other ways. I think a lot of people think we may have lost our big playmakers, but the girls are motivated to prove people wrong." The versatile Shirley led City in kills and digs and was second in assists, while Sparks topped the team in aces.

NEW PRAIRIE

Last year: 26-12 (9-3 Northern Indiana Conference), Class 3A Kankakee Valley Sectional and Mishawaka Marian Regional champions.

Key losses: Olivia Kelly, Cali Salat, Sarah Fronk.

Key returners: Elise Swistek, Jr., OH; Katie Hancock, Sr., MB; Holly Wykoff, Jr., OH; Sarah Kwitkowski, So., OH; Ellie Michiaels, So., MB; Olivia Swanson, Sr., MB; Shaye Tolch, Sr., S; Logan Forrester, Sr., OPP.

Key newcomers: Haley Robinson, Fr., OH; Emma Fleck, Fr., S; Delaney Daniels, Fr., D.

Outlook: Good things are cooking with the Cougars, who return their top two hitters and have a strong influx of freshman talent to bolster the ranks. "I already told them nothing they did last year matters. We're starting over," coach Jordan Staus said. "They've got an even bigger target on their back now. People want to beat them. I also feel, if you do something like that, you want it again. We didn't get to semistate last year easily. You've got to come in the gym and work your butt off every single time." Robinson will step in across from Swistek, a Valparaiso University verbal commit. Hancock, a four-year starter, will be joined by Michiaels in the middle, where they were dominant last season, contributing double-digit kills as well as a defensive presence at the block. Tolch replaces Fronk at setter with Fleck also seeing time. Forrester will contribute as a lefty opposite with a powerful swing. Troy returns at libero and Daniels will contribute to the defense as well.

SOUTH CENTRAL

Last year: 21-10 (5-2 Porter County Conference), Class A Oregon-Davis Sectional champion.

Key losses: Maggie Thomas, Skyler Wildfong, McKenzie Hudspeth.

Key returners: Lexy Wade, Sr., OH, OPP; Allie Garner, Jr., MB, RS; Pipar Wade, So., RS; Kylie Filo, So., DS, LIB; Elle Kimmel, Jr., DS, LIB; Emily Young, Sr., DS.

Newcomers: Lanie Crisman, S; Falyn Anthony, Jr., OH, RS; Sara Shei, So., DS; Alexia Buck, Jr.; Faith Biggs, Sr.; Lauren Bowmar, So.

Outlook: Lexy Wade was the team's top hitter last season and sister Pipar is expected to step into a more prominent offensive role with her and Garner, with Crisman sliding in at setter. "She has great chemistry with our hitters and is showing great decision-making skills with our offensive plan," coach Jan Fitzapatrick said. Filo and Kimmel are two of S.C.'s top defenders with support from Shei and Young, while Anthony and Buck lend size and front-line versatility. The uber-talented Biggs and the 6-foot Bowmar are learning the system quickly and will have an impact with their athleticism. The Satellites are embracing the challenge of moving up to Class 2A. "The kids still remember that feeling (of losing in the regional) and have come into the gym ready to work," Fitzpatrick said. "They plan to go a lot further in the tournament. We have told the kids they have an opportunity to make history in this new class."

WESTVILLE

Last year: 18-11, lost to Kouts in Class A Kouts Sectional

Key losses: Emma Ray, Ali Hisick, Kaylynn Popp, Cassie Janas.

Key returners: Sarah Henrich, Sr., S; Maddison Denecho, Sr., OH; Peyton Rodgers, Sr., LIB; Johnasia Bernard, Sr., MH.

Key newcomers: CoCo Albers, Sr.; Faith Baltzell, Fr., MH.

Outlook: Henrich, the 2018 team MVP and all-Porter County Conference pick, headlines the veterans. Albers is playing for the first time since eighth grade and looked great in the summer, according to coach Dale Lake, adding that Baltzell has a great chance to start in the middle. Fortunes could hinge on the healthy return of Bernard, who injured a shoulder in a car accident. "We have five seniors with a lot of varsity experience," Lake said. "We are not the biggest team in the conference but we have great ball control and these are some very scrappy girls. We lost four starting seniors but we are hoping to contend for the conference championship, win our sectional and our own Westville Invitational. These girls worked hard this summer. I can not wait to get the season started."

Note: La Porte's preview appeared in Wednesday's edition of the Herald-Argus.

— Compiled by Jim Peters and Zack Eldridge.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.