Groveport Madison Roundup
Girls volleyball team in maturation mode
Following a challenging first season as coach, Kari Lennon is finding that she has players who are committed to turning around the Groveport Madison High School girls volleyball program.
At this time a year ago, Lennon was teaching basics like stance and alignment.
"Last year was coming in and teaching them a new system," she said. "It's teaching kids that it's not just about varsity, it's about varsity, j.v. and freshmen connected, and we even include our seventh and eighth grades in that as well.
"It was really a complete change in thinking for a lot of the kids. This year it's been easier. You walk in and you already know the system. You can pick up and kind of tweak and work on the little things you need to along the way, instead of trying to teach all season."
The Cruisers lost their opener 25-23, 25-17, 25-20 to Canal Winchester on Aug. 25 and then fell to Gahanna 25-17, 25-11, 25-16 in their OCC-Ohio Division opener Aug. 28. Their next three matches were league contests: Aug. 30 against Grove City, Sept. 4 against Lancaster and Thursday, Sept. 6, at home against Newark.
Team captains are seniors Paige Shoemaker (setter) and Cassidy Tigner (setter) and junior Breanna Keesee (libero).
Tigner is in her fourth year with the program.
Others on the team include seniors Amber Angell (opposite hitter), Alexis Baugus (defensive specialist), Makenzie Farrington (opposite hitter) and Allison Johnson (middle hitter), juniors Samantha Strayer (middle hitter) and Madison Wilson (outside hitter) and sophomore Shianne Curry (outside hitter).
Johnson was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district in Division I last season. Keesee was honorable mention all-league.
Defensive specialist Lily Davis was lost to graduation.
"We miss her, but she was hurt late in the season and we had kids step up to fill that role," Lennon said.
Last season, Groveport finished 2-22 overall and tied Reynoldsburg for seventh (1-13) in the OCC-Ohio behind Pickerington North (14-0), Newark (12-2), Gahanna (9-5), Grove City (9-5), Lancaster (6-8) and Pickerington Central (4-10).
The Cruisers lost their district tournament opener to seventh-seeded Hilliard Bradley 25-9, 25-15, 25-13.
Lennon believes her team can make strides in the league this season.
"You have Gahanna, Grove City, Newark and Pickerington North, and they're always top competitors," she said. "Us against Lancaster, Reynoldsburg and Pickerington Central, for the past few years we've always been at the bottom of the league.
"The goal for us this year is to be fifth. We want to be better than being at the bottom. We want to finish midway through the pack."
Football team readies for Walnut Ridge
The football team concludes its non-league schedule when it plays Friday, Sept. 7, at Walnut Ridge.
The Scots were 0-1 before playing Urbana on Aug. 31. Groveport also was 0-1 before playing Olentangy Orange that night.
Walnut Ridge features 6-foot-3, 185-pound Wisconsin recruit Rob Wheelwright, who caught 45 passes for 528 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Quarterback Marquez Toney (5-10, 175) started the final four games last season before preparing throughout the offseason to be the full-time starter this fall.
"They've got some talent," Groveport coach Tim Brown said. "According to them, they think they're going to be playoff material. I know they have talented kids and a very good coaching staff. We know that they're a high-caliber opponent."
The Scots lost their opener to Upper Arlington 40-23 on Aug. 24. The Cruisers lost to Westerville South 55-14.
Walnut Ridge coach Byron Mattox is a 1988 graduate of Groveport.
"Coach Mattox is a great guy," Brown said. "He went to Groveport and he's solid on offense and defense with the years of experience he has."
"It'll be interesting," Mattox said. "I lived in Groveport my whole life, and my parents still live in the same house I grew up in, so being on the opposite sideline will be interesting.
"It'll have more meaning when we go there next year."
The Cruisers travel to Gahanna for the OCC-Ohio opener Sept. 14, before playing host to Grove City on Sept. 21.