Stafford Leader

Southern Regional Girls Volleyball Team Wants to Build Off 2017 Success

Sep 14, 2018

Southern Regional High School girls volleyball coach Eric Maxwell expected his team to take a big step forward in 2017. His team had finished 16-12 in 2014, 18-11 in 2015 and 16-12 again in 2016.

“For many programs, these would be pretty good campaigns,” said Maxwell before the 2017 season. “But not for the Rams.”

His first goal last year was to capture the Shore Conference A South championship, something his team had done from 2002, the very first year the title was up for grabs, through 2014. Maxwell also said he wanted his 2017 squad to “get back into the SCT (Shore Conference Tournament) mix. Southern had won the SCT in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and was the runner-up in 2009 and 2011. Finally, the veteran coach wanted his girls to reach at least the quarterfinals of the State Group 4 Tournament, as previous teams had done from 2003 through 2011 and again in 2013.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad, and the Rams were oh, so close to reaching all of Maxwell’s goals.

The Rams did indeed reclaim the A South crown last year, thanks to a sparkling 14-0 divisional record. They were in the SCT mix, falling in the semifinals to an upstart Pinelands team in an incredibly exciting 25-23, 24-26, 21-25 match. Southern, seeded seventh, won its first match in the State Group 4 Tournament with a 25-11, 25-12 win over Columbia but lost 19-25, 25-15, 25-27 to Clifton, the 23-seed, in the second round – in other words, just two points away from the quarterfinals.

Southern finished the 2017 campaign with a 25-7 record. That’s undoubtedly better than pretty good.

Maxwell wants to keep the pedal to the metal in 2018.

“Great strides last year as we improved in all areas of our game, and that showed at the division, conference and state levels,” said the coach. “We think we will improve upon that again. We have several talented players returning and are still relatively young. Excellent prospects for the future. We are all extremely excited.”

This year’s version of the Rams is in fact “relatively young,” having lost four seniors to graduation. The roster boasts six seniors, but two juniors, five sophomores and a freshman are also on the varsity squad, with some underclasswomen playing important roles.

Senior libero Jess Sprankle, First Team All Shore last year, will head up the passing game and back row defense. But a sophomore, Stephanie Soares, who earned Third Team All Shore honors in 2017, will return as the squad’s setter. The defensive and passing game will be assisted by senior defensive specialists Zoe Deakyne and Kaitlyn Ward and sophomore Madison Gellis.

The same mix applies up front. Senior outside hitter Kari Klimek will probably be Soares’ main target while another senior, Macy Guglielmo, will be the team’s lead right side hitter. But the setter will also be feeding junior outside hitter Gianna Schiattarella, junior middle blocker Riley Vaughn and sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Rachael Pharo.

Senior outside hitter Sarah Gildea, sophomore setter Adrianna Conforti, sophomore middle blocker/right side hitter Emma Gildea and freshman outside hitter/defensive specialist Samantha Hanneman complete the roster.

“I love what I see from our team,” said Maxwell. “They bring enthusiasm, energy and effort on a daily basis. The team chemistry is evident, and there is a positive attitude in the gym. We will build off of last year’s success, but not be satisfied with that. We want more than that.”

— Rick Mellerup

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