High school sports practices begin with high expectations

Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Naomi Hahn (left) and Katie Beyer finish the final stretch of their run during Warren cross country practice at War Memorial Field, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Monday was the official opening day of fall practice for all teams across Warren County.

The 2018-19 athletic season officially got underway on Monday with the start of fall practices. There’s no shortage of interesting stories to follow as teams across the county opened their respective camps.

The first event of the season is scheduled for Thursday, with Warren golf traveling to Beechwood in Erie. Warren tennis gets started on Monday, hosting Mercyhurst Prep, while all three county football programs kick off next Friday. Eisenhower hosts West Middlesex, while Warren travels to Fairview and Sheffield is at Smethport.

Here are just a few of the things to keep your eye on as we inch closer to the start of the season.

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Times Observer photo by Brian Hagberg Trevor Wills wraps up Ethan Senz in a tackling drill during Warren football practice at War Memorial Field, Monday, Aug. 12, 2019. Monday marked the official opening day of fall camp as teams finally got a chance to see how well their summer conditioning programs worked with players in full pads and going full contact.

The volleyball team took not just WAHS but the entire county on a magical ride to a second-place finish in Pennsylvania last season. Coach Mike Dolan and his staff will replace a lot of talent, but return some key cogs as well, led by senior leaders Lex Nyquist and Grace Wortman.

The volleyball program wasn’t the only one to leave their mark on the state level, as the cross country team boasts plenty of returning firepower, led by state medalist, senior Naomi Hahn.

The girls’ soccer program has had a steady rise the past three years, nearly knocking off heavy-favorite Hickory in the D-10 title game a season ago. Needless to say, they have their sights set on a potential championship in 2019.

The boys’ soccer program, meanwhile, remained one of the most consistent in D-10, winning a quarterfinal playoff game before falling to eventual D-10 champ Cathedral Prep. They should be good once again.

The football team went 6-4 last season, a marked improvement under head coach Mark Morelli, who begins his third season at Warren, where expectations continue to rise.

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The volleyball program took a big step forward last year under the direction of coach Scott Olson, knocking off Commodore Perry in five sets in the first round of the D-10 playoffs before falling to eventual D-10 champ and PIAA quarterfinalist Cochranton. They aim to continue to rise this season.

The football team, despite going 2-8, scored more points than they allowed (249-241). Five of their eight losses were one-possession games, something coach Jim Penley said he had never experienced in all his years of coaching. The talent is there to significantly improve upon that record and close out some of the close games they weren’t able to a year ago.

The girls soccer program went to the D-10 playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2018 and should make it three in a row in this year.

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The Lady Wolverine volleyball program was young last season, and they grew by leaps and bounds. That growth was evident by a strong close to the season, something they seek to build upon in 2019.

The football program had to fight to stay alive before their season even began in 2018, and finished without a win. Continued improvement and development is the name of the game for coach Chris Korbar and his staff.

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After serving as an assistant, Vickie Montecalvo takes over the reins of the Youngsville volleyball program. The Lady Eagles return plenty of talent and will look to contend in a very competitive Region 3.