The Groveport Madison High School girls volleyball team is looking to continue its upward trend this season.
The Cruisers finished 2-22 overall and 1-13 in the OCC-Ohio Division in 2011, but improved to 7-17 and 2-12 last season. It took only three matches this season under first-year coach Brooke Incorvaia to equal their win total from 2011.
"The main team goal is just to improve every day," said Incorvaia, who replaced Kari Lennon, who stepped down after two seasons. "The girls specifically want to be the best at defense and communication."
Groveport opened Aug. 17 with a 25-9, 25-9, 25-15 loss to Worthington Kilbourne but rebounded to defeat Columbus South 25-8, 25-12, 25-9 on Aug. 21 and Berne Union 25-11, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-9 on Aug. 24.
The Cruisers, who opened OCC-Ohio play Aug. 27 against Gahanna, have three returnees in senior co-captains Bre Keesee (back-row specialist) and Madison Wilson (5-foot-11, outside hitter) and sophomore Shianne Curry (5-10, middle hitter).
Last season, Wilson was named second-team all-league and Keesee was special mention all-league.
"Madison Wilson is a strong outside hitter," Incorvaia said. "She is a dedicated, hard-working athlete who is committed to helping Groveport Madison volleyball grow and improve.
"Bre Keesee is the go-to person in the back row. She is skilled in passing the ball to the target and covering most of the back court."
Also expected to play a key role is 6-0 junior middle hitter Amanda Arrowood.
"Amanda Arrowood is a positive, uplifting force to our team," Incorvaia said. "She has a strong block and executes the quick set quite precisely."
Also on the team are seniors Justine Aguon (defensive specialist) and Marissa Velez (defensive specialists), juniors Page Beal (setter) and Amanda Madsen (5-7, opposite hitter) and freshman Kendra Soler (5-7, outside hitter).
"The team transitions well," Incorvaia said. "Our serving is a strength, along with our offensive attack. We can improve in all areas of the game and are working hard in practice each day to do that. In my opinion, communication and aggressiveness will be the keys to our success."
Football team set for season opener
The football team opens its season Friday, Aug. 30, at Westerville South.
The contest will mark the coaching debut of Bryan Schoonover, a 1998 Groveport graduate who replaced Tim Brown during the offseason. In 10 seasons, Brown compiled a 38-64 record and guided the Cruisers to the Division I playoffs in 2007.
Groveport and South faced each other in last year's opening week, with the Cruisers losing 55-14 en route to finishing 1-9 overall. Their lone victory came against Walnut Ridge, 21-20, in week three.
Groveport is seeking its first winning season since going 6-4 in 2010. Its record over the past two seasons is 4-16.
Senior Mecca Swain, who according to Schoonover is a Division I college prospect, is expected to start at quarterback. Last year, he saw playing time at quarterback, running back and wide receiver and finished with 1,100 all-purpose yards.
Groveport's defense will be tested by South's spread offense. The Wildcats, who finished 8-3 last season, lost many of their top skill-position players to graduation, including quarterback Nick Renzetti, wide receiver Marcus Ball and running back Noah Prentiss.
However, South returns all five starters on its offensive line as well as wide receiver Torrodd Carter and tight end Darryl Long. Timmy Bates has taken over at quarterback and Darien Miller is expected to be the featured running back after rushing for more than 400 yards last season as the backup to Prentiss.
Because of graduation and injuries, South opens the season with only three returning starters on defense in linebacker Kamaree Walden, lineman Curtis Mitchell and free safety Trey Harden.