By Kyle Daubs
Coach Kim Peabody is ready to see her Taylorville squad at the top of the Apollo.
After watching Mahomet-Seymour win the Apollo Conference last season with a 14-0 record, Taylorville enters the season with a stacked lineup that is coming off a 10-4 mark in the conference. The Tornadoes didn’t lose any key players and have a strong core coming back.
Two First-Team All-Apollo Conference players return in senior outside hitter Hannah Clayon and senior setter Summer Brandis. With a JV squad that lost just one game last year, this could be one of the best seasons Peabody will have in her nine years coaching.
“I see us towards the top of the conference,” said Peabody. “We return five starters and our JV last season went 20-1 so we have a good group of juniors as well. I would guess Mahomet will be up there towards the top of the conference. They have good size and a talented team.”
Mahomet-Seymour lost its Offensive Player of the Year Ainsley Ranstead to graduation, as well as All-Apollo libero Josie Hess. Despite losing the talent at the top, head coach Stan Bergman sees the Bulldogs as a contender to complete the three-peat.
“We see ourselves with everyone,” said Bergman. “I think we have great coaches in our conference and all are competitive so I do not see a top team, just several good teams.”
The Bulldogs bring back All-Second Team setter Caylee Folken, who will be a junior this year. Size will also be a factor for the team as the squad features 5-foot-10 junior outside hitters Grace Rodebaugh and Chloe Pruitt, 5-foot-11 middle hitter Sophie Zerrouki, and 6-foot-0 opposite hitter Emma Anderson.
“Mahomet-Seymour has won the conference the past two seasons, so they have to be considered the favorites again this year.,” said Pamperin. “The Apollo Conference is full of talented volleyball teams and athletes. Our hope is to be competitive each night.”
Charleston returns All-Apollo First Team setter Makenzie Pamperin, but lost a huge chunk of its offense from last year. Even with Kat Blase on the First-Team, the Trojans slipped to an 8-5 record and fourth place.
Mount Zion lost senior hitter Emily Cole, but returns Second Team selection Alex Smith. The Braves were 10-4 last year and brings back the bulk of their offense, including sophomore standout Denver Anderson.
Mattoon head coach Kayla Quick sees both Mount Zion and Charleston as exciting matchups for the Green Wave this season.
“As a program, our most exciting competition typically comes from Taylorville, Mt. Zion, and, of course, Charleston,” said Quick. “The long-standing rivalry between Mattoon and Charleston, simply due to the towns being so close to one another, always makes for an exciting match no matter the sport. However, no team in the Apollo conference should be overlooked.
Effinham finished 5-9 last year and lost their lone All-Apollo representative, while Lincoln was next in the standings at 4-10. Lincoln took a massive hit by losing 10 seniors.
Mattoon finished last with a 2-11 record and nobody on the All-Apollo list. However, after a year away from the game to care for her newborn son, the former All-Big 12 volleyball player from the class of 2012 is ready to bring Mattoon back to the glory days.
“I’m proud to be a part of a conference stacked with such solid competition,” said Quick. “Our goal is always to come out as conference champions, and with this group’s skill, chemistry, and work ethic, I have no doubt that this is an attainable goal for us this season.”
SPRING 2021 STANDINGS
Predicted Apollo Conference Rankings
3. Mount Zion