As always is the case, Apollo High School and Owensboro Catholic should play a large part in who wins the 3rd Region volleyball championship.
The regional favorite, though, is from the 11th District with defending regional champ Breckinridge County.
Breck County had the best record in the 3rd Region last season at 32-8.
There has also been some feeling that Daviess County could have one of its better teams in the last few years.
Apollo was 31-9 and fell to Breckinridge County in the 3rd Region Tournament championship game last year.
"Overcoming our inexperience is going to be a big hurdle," Apollo coach Mary Howard said. "We only have three returning players.
There are a lot of players working in different positions or who weren't on the floor much who will be asked to carry some of the load.
One of those experienced players back for the E-Gals is 6-foot-3 senior Natalie Ewing.
"She was a big impact player, one of the top offensive scorers for us," Howard said. "Brylee Rhodes is the other middle position, and we look for her to be solid."
Hallie Wilson is a standout senior in the back row. Anslee Hopewell is moving to setter.
Aliyah Carwile and senior Whitley Chambers will have expanded roles, which should help Apollo offensively.
"We've got the potential to contend, and there are several teams who could win (region)," Howard said. "We stand to be competitive, but it's going to be a year-long process. This year, I think the ceiling will be very high."
The Lady Panthers were 13-14 last season. There is talk in a few circles that DC could have a breakout season for coach Tyla Bailey.
"We're returning four seniors, several juniors, we'll have some sophomores playing some pretty critical roles for us," Bailey said. "We definitely have a great group of girls, they work hard every day, they're hungry to win, ready to do well. Waking up at 6 a.m. every morning for some people, nah, but for them, they come in ready to go."
DC used early-morning practices during the summer to get ready for preseason work.
Elizabeth Moore is an outside hitter. Kloee Phelps is a utility player. Hannah Axley is a senior, playing setter, and Kinsley Phelps is in the middle as another senior. Delaney Evans is a senior defensive specialist. Ashton Johnson is another outside player as a senior. Jasmine Beasley is also a middle player.
It's pretty hard for Bailey to choose who might be the standouts because the team is good overall.
Evans, Moore and Kloee Phelps have strong serves.
"Our outsides are pretty strong, our middles are real aggressive on the net," Bailey said.
Catholic was 19-14 and lost to Breck County in the regional semifinals last year.
Catholic coach Brian Hardison is pleased with what he's seen from the Lady Aces during tournaments in the summer and the Bluegrass Games.
"I'm really happy with my team," Hardison said. "As far as playing as a team, having multiple weapons, we've had some younger girls who have stepped up and are pretty solid."
Cecilia Clemens is the senior setter and she runs the floor for the Lady Aces. Seniors Isabelle Wright and Cassidy Towery are strong outside hitters. Towery could emerge as a top player for Catholic.
"Her and Isabelle together are really good," Hardison said.
Catholic's new libero is Jenna Glenn. Jayden Bickett will be a senior running the back row along with Glenn. Cate Sites and Madeline Castlen are two middles who should be effective.
Hardison thinks of Catholic as a regional favorite every year, and this season is no different. There are things that the Lady Aces need to improve on, though.
"We start really well, but another thing for us is being able to finish," Hardison said. "We're putting it together."
The Lady Devils were 6-27 last season, but they have a large junior and senior class returning.
"We're very experienced," OHS coach Melissa Hibbs said. "We have four seniors. The last couple of years, they were so young, they weren't 100% ready for varsity. Now we've got some experience, we scrimmage and practice against each other. Practices have been more intense and competitive."
The front line will include seniors Mykael Winstead and Armanda Pappas, and junior Lainey Hayden.
"They're all strong hitters," Hibbs said.
Krystell Pappas is a setter and a strong server. Jersie Rhineburger and senior Audretta Tyler are also key players.
Mia Covington and Kennedy Thompson saw time on the floor last season.
Having a roster of 14 helps the level of competition within the team.
"Every girl knows somebody is waiting to try and take their spot," Hibbs said.
The Lady Raiders won the 12th District in the final season for longtime coach Adam Huff.
Daniel Morris is now head coach of the program, and he knows this history of it.
"All these girls know that my expectations are going to be a little high. Continuing the success of the volleyball program is one of my main goals as head coach," Morris said.
Morgan Kinsey and Avery Barnett are senior hitters who will have key roles in communicating on the front line.
Cassidy Morris and Jenna McDowell are middle blockers who should help the team.
"With their blocking and hitting abilities they both have, they are going to help the team both offensively and defensively," Daniel Morris said.
The Lady Hornets are from the 11th District and were 10-19 last season.
Coach Tim Blan has five seniors and three juniors returning.
Hancock Couty's five seniors are Cameron Blan at setter, Haley Smith at outside hitter, Shelby Harpenau and Madeline Lindauer at middle hitter and Hannah Powers on the right side. Katie Blan will be Hancock County's other outside hitter. Emma Hurst is at libero and Megan LaClair will anchor the defense.
"Our defense is something we have really been working on," Tim Blan said. "If we can continue to improve our defense we should have a very good year."
The Lady Cougars were 5-25 last season and have a new head coach in Keith Sage.
Top players for McLean County will include setters Kylie Ward and Addison Horn. Senior hitters will be Katie Cessna and Allison Baxley. Middle blockers will include Abby Engleheart, Ellie Alexander and Claire Hudson.
Libero will be Meredith Free, and other defensive players will be Madison Wilson and Alex Bastin.
The Lady Mustangs were 11-23 last season and won the 10th District Tournament.
"Muhlenberg County lost a few key front-row players last season which has made us become flexible," Muhlenberg County coach Tabby Davenport said. "We have a few players who are playing brand new positions and have adapted very well and accepted their new role.
"Our biggest struggle the past few seasons has been our mental strength and the ability to push through hard games/losses."
A top returning player for the Lady Mustangs is junior Daisy Ritchie.
The Lady Eagles finished 14-17 last season and reached the 3rd Region Tournament.
Ohio County has six seniors on the roster.