The Washington volleyball team lost a distinguished class when nine seniors graduated.



Six players were either first- or second-team all-Mid-Illini Conference from a squad that won the league title for the first time since 2003 with a 14-0 mark.


The Washington volleyball team lost a distinguished class when nine seniors graduated.

Six players were either first- or second-team all-Mid-Illini Conference from a squad that won the league title for the first time since 2003 with a 14-0 mark.

The Lady Panthers went 31-5 in 2010 and won a Class 3A regional championship, their first in five years.

But the cupboard certainly is not bare in ’11.

“They’re super-nice girls,” WCHS head coach Chuck Heinz said. “It’s just going to take time with such a young group.”

Senior outside hitter Emily Heuermann is back after garnering second-team all-M-I status.

Heuermann was second on the team with 191 kills and also registered 91 digs and 25 aces in about half a season of serving.

“She could have played all the way around,” Heinz said of the co-captain Heuermann.

The other returning starter is junior Lindsey Watson, who is at middle hitter after primarily playing the right side a year ago.

“She can really hit from anywhere on the court, which is nice,” said Heinz of Watson, the tallest spiker at 6-foot-2.

Watson was No. 2 a year ago with 59 blocks and had 72 kills.

Ally Deiters, a junior, is the setter this fall after a pair of players recognized by the conference at that position — Sarah Misselhorn and Taylor Kuykendall — departed.

Junior Danielle Williams is an outside hitter upon which the Lady Panthers will count. She also is a backup setter.

Lexi Barra, Haley Houser and Abby Clanin all earned first- or second-team all-M-I accolades from hitting positions.
Cori Venegonia and co-captain Natalie Hamilton are the other seniors on the roster.

Venegonia is another option at setter after showing she can make sound decisions with 3.2 assists per game in 11 matches as a junior.

Heinz said Hamilton, who appeared in 22 contests as a Washington junior, “was a solid person for us.”

Others on the roster include: juniors Sam Simmons, MaryBeth Reeves, Courtney Spurgeon and Hannah Garman and sophomores Bree Harrison and Hayley Reneau.

“The young girls had an active summer and learned a lot,” Heinz said. “They have a higher learning curve for that age. We’re looking to get better every day and every week.”

Libero Brittany Spurgeon was the other senior lost who was awarded all-M-I honors.

The Lady Panthers have a tough task trying to defend their conference title.

Metamora and Limestone are formidable at the top with their returnees, plus players coming up from solid sophomore teams.

“We’re definitely up in the upper half of the conference,” said Heinz. “It depends on how our team gels.”

Dunlap is in position to improve on its .500 league mark. Pekin is improved, but the Dragons still likely will find it difficult to crack the top four this season.

Washington opened its campaign Saturday with a trip to the Macomb Tournament, where it won 4-of-5 matches a year ago.

The Lady Panthers went 3-2 this time at Macomb.

Heuermann, Reeves, Watson and Williams all had five kills in a 25-12, 25-11 victory over Bushnell-Prairie City-Avon. Deiters distributed 14 assists.

In its second Orange Pool match, Washington derailed Petersburg PORTA, 16-25, 25-16, 15-11, as Heuermann and Watson had seven kills each. Heuermann and Spurgeon made 10 digs.

A 28-26, 25-16, 15-6 victory over Macomb gave the Lady Panthers an unblemished pool record. Heuermann had a dozen digs, Watson three blocks and Williams five aces. Heuermann also tallied 10 kills.

In a 22-25, 21-25 loss to rival Metamora, Heuermann racked up 13 kills and salvaged 14 digs. Four players provided two aces each, and Venegonia was credited with 10 assists.

DeKalb handed the Lady Panthers a 17-25, 22-25 setback. Williams and Venegonia combined for 21 digs, while Watson rose for three blocks.

Four Lady Panther volleyball graduates — Barra (Illinois Central College), Spurgeon (Illinois College), Houser (University of Illinois-Springfield) and Mary Gabbert (Monmouth) — are playing the sport in college.