RAVENSWOOD - How high they fly in 2015 remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that a wealth of youthful talent is what makes Braham’s Flying Circus (AKA Ravenswood Red Devilette Volleyball Team of Coach Gary Brfaham and assistant Chris Michael) soar.
The fliers start with junior middle hitter Lauren Hoff, who was named to Class AA All-State Second Team honors at the end of her sophomore breakout season in 2014. Hoff was one of just seven underclassmen among the 20 garnering elite (first and second team) All-State accolades. Also a LKC First Team selection, Hoff led the Devilettes in scoring (501 points), spiking (570/665), and kills (268). She was second in service aces (66), sets (1,017) and blocks (97). And even more impressive, Hoff’s post-season accolades came for her play on a team that struggled, finishing 17-29.
Joining Hoff as a three-year starter for 2015 is fellow junior Bayli Manns, who will shift into an exclusive setting role as the Devilettes switch to a 5-1 offensive set to enhance athleticism and take advantage of hitting talent. That’s taking nothing away from Manns, who is both athletic and talented. She was third in scoring in 2014 (301 points) and led in sets (1,130) and blocks (114).
With two years of varsity play already under their belts, Manns and Hoff are confident and ready to accomplish some big things.
“Making every set will be difficult, getting to wherever the ball is, but I’m up for the challenge,” said Manns, a standout softball catcher in the spring. “It should make our offense better and that what’s important. I’m definitely more confident and comfortable after two years playing varsity.”
Hoff passed on softball to concentrate on her volleyball skills this past year, after starting in the outfield as a freshman. She’s ready to build on the success she enjoyed as a sophomore. “I think we’ll be good,” said Hoff. “We’ve played together and we’re still underclassmen (no seniors on the varsity team). Hopefully, we’ll build on our experience and team chemistry and have a big year.”
Expected to have a big year is sophomore Skyler Mace, who grew in the offseason and is now 6-0. Her coaches believe this will be her breakout year—similar to the one Hoff enjoyed in 2014. As a freshman, Mace made an immediate impact, much like Hoff and Manns did. She was second in scoring (312 points), second in spiking (397/501) and kills (149). She be a middle hitter/blocker with Hoff, giving the Devilettes two imposing presences there. “I think the strongest part of my game is blocking, so it’s good,” Mace said.
Also moving to a new position for 2015 is junior Ariana Kennedy, another outstanding softball player at first base and leadoff hitter. Kennedy, a solid, talented passer will be the team’s libero. “I’m a good passer, so it’s a perfect fit defensively. I’m comfortable playing back row. The switching in and out is different, but it’s going well, ” Kennedy said. And yet, she was the 2014 team’s fourth leading scorer (234 points) and top server (409/460) with a team-leading 86 aces. She was second in passing (693/989).
Junior Erica Green and sophomore Katie Mellinger are outside hitters. Green scored 204 points and was third in service aces with 54. At 5-3, Green said hitting outside in challenging. “You have to get up,” she said with a grin.
Mellinger had a promising rookie season, scoring 159 points and finishing as the third-best spiker (310/417). She’s looking for more in 2015.
Sophomore Molly McCutcheon and freshmen newcomers Dominek Brown and Kendall Bowen will look to contribute off the bench for the circus.
As usual, the road to the post-season goes through sectional rivals Ritchie County and Roane County with Webster County and Braxton County as contenders.
Asked about their coaches, in unison the players said they are the best. Asked if they would answer that way if the five-way interview wasn’t being recorded, they giggled, grinned and said, “Yes.”
The Devilettes got their volleyball season underway with a quad-match Thursday featuring Ritchie County, Parkersburg Catholic and St. Marys and at the Doddridge County Invitational Tournament Saturday (St. Marys, Gilmer County and Doddridge).