Monday, March 27, 2023

Volleyball Preview: Independence Blue Devils

Independence has some big shoes to fill this fall but the Blue Devils have proven over the course of the last decade that they’re up to the challenge.

Last fall, the team finished 28-1 overall, 10-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division, and finished as the Division III state runner-up for the fourth consecutive season.

On top of that, the Blue Devils have won 116 straight conference matches. They last dropped a league match on Oct. 13, 2011, a 3-2 setback to rival Cuyahoga Heights.

This year, the Blue Devils return three starters and four others with varsity experience but replacing their graduated seniors won’t be easy.

“Our team is a work in progress,” said Independence coach Anthony Messina. “How hard we work will determine our success. We graduated four four-year starters and our potential all-state sophomore transferred to a private school.”

Not only do the Blue Devils have to replace four-year setter Abby Avila, now a freshman at the University of Charleston, four-year defensive standout Macy McNamara, who is now a freshman at Robert Morris University, and four-year power-hitter Hannah Wilson, currently a freshman at Duquesne, but sophomore Aubrey Anders transferred to Gilmour Academy after leading the Blue Devils with 234 kills as a freshman.

Callie Prokopius, another four-year starter also graduated.

Messina can’t waste time dwelling on who graduated or left the program.

Instead, he’ll focus on developing his returning players and the newcomers that will be expected to carry on the tradition and legacy of the program.

Seniors Sammy Barther and Grace Taliaferro, junior Emily Richards, and sophomore Sofia Smotek provide the Blue Devils will a solid core of returning players who will help the younger girls to develop the proper work ethic and mindset that has led to so much success over the year.

Barther, an outside hitter, finished last season with 163 kills, Taliaferro, a middle blocker, recorded 174 kills and 29 blocks, Richards, a right-side hitter/defensive specialist, finished with 17 kills and three blocks, and Smotek, an outside hitter, debuted last season as a freshman with 147 kills.

Sophomore setter Alberta Moreal and freshman setter/right-side hitter Haley Wilson are expected to solidify the rotation.

Several other players are battling for playing time on the varsity court.

Click here for the Blue Devils’ CVC Media Day interview.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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