Second-year Canal Winchester High School girls volleyball coach Tricia Nunemaker won't be alarmed if her team struggles a bit early in the season given that only four letterwinners have returned.

Second-year Canal Winchester High School girls volleyball coach Tricia Nunemaker won't be alarmed if her team struggles a bit early in the season given that only four letterwinners have returned.

Based on the Indians' work ethic in practice, she expects them to improve steadily throughout the season.

Canal Winchester opened Aug. 25 with a 25-23, 25-17, 20-25 victory over Groveport and begins MSL-Buckeye Division play Thursday, Aug. 30, at Bloom-Carroll.

"We're replacing some big losses, so it's going to take some time to build ourselves back up," Nunemaker said. "But we have a lot of dedicated leaders on the court, and we're getting a lot out of the girls at practice. The girls get along really well, which helps our team chemistry, and that's going to help us become a better team."

Last season, Canal Winchester finished 16-8 overall, placed second in the MSL-Buckeye and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to third-seeded Dublin Coffman 25-20, 25-20, 25-19.

The Indians beat Lancaster 25-17, 24-26, 25-20, 25-20 in the first round and Chillicothe 25-22, 25-21, 25-14 in the second round.

Canal Winchester returns three starters in seniors Rachel Dosch (middle hitter), Hannah Lewis (outside hitter) and Kyleigh Palmer (outside hitter/setter).

Palmer was named second-team all-league last year and Dosch was honorable mention all-league.

Also expected to start are juniors Kalila Bell (middle hitter), Kacey Bingmer (setter) and Lauren Ray (outside hitter) and freshman libero Maddi Porter.

Rounding out the team are senior Hanna Barnhart (defensive specialist/libero) and juniors Ashley Borror (outside hitter), Amanda Henderson (outside hitter) and Savannah Saeger (middle hitter/outside hitter).

"We have a lot of offensive weapons and blocking is something we should be good at," Nunemaker said. "The girls are very scrappy, and they never give up on a play."

The Indians went 11-3 in the MSL-Buckeye last year to finish behind Bloom-Carroll (14-0).

"Bloom-Carroll is very strong and they may go all the way to the Division III state tournament, so they should be able to take the MSL with ease," Nunemaker said. "Amanda-Clear-creek is always very competitive as well, so we've got our work cut out for us."

Girls runners seeking another league title

The girls cross country team opened Aug. 18 by scoring 274 points to place 10th of 27 teams in the section B race of the OHSAA Preseason Cross Country Invitational at National Trail Raceway as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (36) won.

Freshman Chloe Palmer led the Indians, finishing 26th in 20 minutes, 48.45 seconds. Senior Elizabeth Kifer (45th, 21:47.04) was next, followed by freshman Cassidy Long (62nd, 22:20.84), junior Sarah Collins (72nd, 22:39.85), sophomore Julie Tennison (84th, 22:55.18), senior Taryn Meidl (102nd, 23:24.19) and junior Natalie Tennison (122nd, 24:02.54).

Kifer, Meidl and senior Katelynn Bethel are the team captains.

"We lost our top three runners to graduation, so we'll be a lot younger and less-experienced this year," said coach John Bender, who is in his 20th season leading the program. "But we do have good depth because we have a good mix of varsity runners leading a good group of freshmen."

Last year, Canal Winchester scored 41 points to win the MSL-Buckeye meet at home, marking its fifth consecutive league championship.

Teays Valley (52) was second, followed by Circleville (55), Logan Elm (84) and Hamilton Township (143).

The Indians finished sixth (124) in the 14-team Division I, district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Dublin Coffman (41) as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to the regional at Pickerington North.

Kayla Scott, a 2012 graduate, won the district title in 18:54.25 to advance to regional.

Also competing at district were 2012 graduate Ali Stauffer (22nd, 21:29.49), Kifer (29th, 21:38.54), 2012 graduate Jessica Wheeler (38th, 22:23.42), Collins (39th, 22:26.24), Meidl (45th, 23:10.14) and senior Kelly Henderson (68th, 26:36.7).

Scott won the regional title in 18:49 to advance to the state meet at National Trail Raceway, where she finished seventh in 18:20.77 behind champion Claudia Saunders (18:04.5) of Cincinnati Princeton.

Scott, who set a program record in 18:04.8 while winning the Galion Festival last season, became the first Indians runner to earn all-state honors in Division I. She also tied 2010 graduate Emily Pfifer (seventh in the 2008 Division II state meet) for the highest state finish in program history.

Boys runners hoping to rebuild quickly

The boys cross country team opened Aug. 18 by scoring 343 points to place 12th of 24 teams in the section B race of the OHSAA Preseason Invitational as Cincinnati Turpin (50) won.

Freshman Wyatt Gardner led the Indians, finishing 22nd in 17:37.12). Sophomore Jason Appel (48th, 18:19.35) was next, followed by sophomore Bryce Carroll (71st, 18:41.92), senior Riley Collins (119th, 19:41.68), freshman Robert Moore (126th, 19:58.83), senior Brandon Nichols (133rd, 20:08.5) and senior Jonathon Horne (141st, 20:22.81).

"We lost 10 members of last year's boys team, including six of our top seven varsity runners, so we're doing the most rebuilding that we've done in years," Bender said.

Last year, Canal Winchester scored 23 points to win the MSL-Buckeye meet and capture its second consecutive league title. Teays Valley (50) was second, followed by Fairfield Union (91), Circleville (114), Logan Elm (143), Bloom-Carroll (149) and Hamilton Township (151).

The Indians finished seventh in the 17-team Division I, district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Coffman (58) as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to the regional at Pickerington North.

Jarrod Genther, a 2012 graduate, finished 16th (16:58.49) to advance to regional.

Also competing at district were 2012 graduate Tyler Jenkins (25th, 17:08.5), 2012 graduate James Fraley (33rd, 17:37.63), senior Justin Emmons (49th, 18:14.49), Appel (63rd, 18:41.35), 2012 graduate Aaron Robertson (67th, 18:49.53) and Carroll (76th, 19:09.98).

Genther finished 24th (16:52.88) at regional as the top 16 individuals advanced to state. In the Galion Festival last season, Genther set a program record by placing ninth in 15:49.2.

"This is the first time in a long time that we're not favored to win our league meet," Bender said. "Teays Valley is the favorite in both the boys and girls races, but I think we'll improve enough to challenge for it, and both (the boys and girls) teams will have good seasons."

Football team looks to rebound from loss

The football team is looking to bounce back from its opening loss when it plays Friday, Aug. 31, at Delaware.

The Indians opened Aug. 24 with a 48-21 loss to Dublin Scioto.

Scioto amassed 532 yards, as running backs Will Houston and Darious McDonald each scored three touchdowns.

Quarterback Isaac Pifer threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Zach Bontempo to cut the Indians' deficit to 21-7 before halftime and tossed a 41-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Scott to bring his team within 35-21 in the third quarter. Khari Golden also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score in the third quarter.

Delaware opened with a 35-23 win over Buckeye Valley on Aug. 24. The Pacers are led by quarterback Alex Rayfield, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns against the Barons, and running back Taylor Adair, who rushed for three touchdowns in the opener.