The Groveport Madison High School girls volleyball team is in search of a signature win.
The Cruisers face back-to-back tests in OCC-Ohio Division play Thursday, Sept. 5, at Newark and Tuesday, Sept. 10, at defending champion Pickerington North.
"We've started pretty well, but what would boost our confidence and kick things into gear would be an OCC upset victory," said first-year coach Brooke Incorvaia, whose team was 2-3 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio after losing to Grove City 21-15, 21-13, 21-17 on Aug. 29. "If we could beat one of the better teams in the OCC, it would go a long way for this group."
North, which has won seven consecutive OCC titles and entered the season having won 86 consecutive league matches, went 14-0 in the OCC-Ohio last season. Newark tied Grove City for third in the league at 9-5 a year ago, with Gahanna placing second (11-3).
Groveport lost its league opener to Gahanna 25-21, 24-26, 25-12, 25-20 on Aug. 27.
"We played well at times and hung in against Gahanna," Incorvaia said. "It won't be much longer though before being close or playing well isn't good enough. We want to pull off an upset or get a validating win."
The Cruisers lost their opener against Worthington Kilbourne, falling 25-9, 25-9, 25-15 on Aug. 17. They beat Columbus South 25-8, 25-12, 25-9 on Aug. 21 and held on to defeat Berne Union 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-9 on Aug. 24 before losing to Gahanna.
Incorvaia has been pleased with her team's play, particularly that of outside hitters Madison Wilson and Kendra Soler, middle hitter Amanda Arrowood, setter Paige Beal and back-row specialist Bre Keesee.
"Wilson has been solid outside and, as a senior, we expected that," Incorvaia said. "Soler is a freshman who is growing every day. Her instincts are starting to show. She's doing well with hits and tips. Arrowood, our 6-foot middle, has really improved over last season. She's great at quicks and is doing a fantastic job blocking.
"Beal is controlling the floor and dictating tempo and Keesee is strong in the back and is passing very well."
Incorvaia wants her players to remain focused.
"I think mental awareness is more important in this game than skill most of the time," she said. "The level of skill diminishes when you're not mentally strong. If we make a bad play, we've got to move on to the next one. It's a very mental game and we need to improve in that area. That's why getting wins is crucial to remain mentally strong and focused and play our best."
Girls tennis team struggles early
Girls tennis coach Doug Ewart has seen the fight in his players in the early stages of the season and recently he has begun to see the improvement -- except in his team's record.
Groveport was 0-6 overall and 0-4 in the OCC-Ohio after losing to Pickerington Central 5-0 on Aug. 29.
"The team scores may not show it, but we played a lot better tennis this past week than we had before that," Ewart said. "We fought and scratched for every point against Grove City and Reynoldsburg."
Groveport lost to Grove City 4-1 on Aug. 27 and Reynoldsburg 4-1 on Aug. 28. The Cruisers lost 5-0 in their matches against Olentangy (Aug. 19), Gahanna (Aug. 20) and Westerville Central (Aug. 21).
"It's been a rough start and it proves a lot of (opposing) players worked harder in the offseason than we did," Ewart said. "But against Grove City and Reynoldsburg, our doubles teams played long points, rallies and matches. Both doubles matches against Reynoldsburg (lasted) three hours."
At first doubles, sisters Alex Goodwin and Elise Goodwin won against Reynoldsburg 7-6, 7-5 and lost to Grove City 6-4, 7-5. At second doubles, Cheyanne Morris and Jordan Gilmore won against Grove City 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 and lost to Reynoldsburg 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
"Kaysea Smith is beginning to stroke it better at third singles," Ewart said. "She's battling and taking a significant step up. All of them have improved. They're playing hard and taking it to heart when things aren't going well. They're hungry and, because of that, they'll continue to get better."
Football team set for home opener
The football team will play its home opener Friday, Sept. 6, against Walnut Ridge.
Groveport's only win last season came against the Scots, 21-20 in week three.
Walnut Ridge, which finished 7-3 last season and opened against Watterson on Aug. 30, has returned four offensive starters, including three linemen.
Among the key players on offense for the Scots are running back Jaisean Johnson, who averaged nearly 10 yards per carry a year ago, and 6-foot-4, 185-pound sophomore quarterback Malik Harrison, who is in his first season as a starter.
Walnut Ridge returned five starters on defense, including Division I college prospects in linebacker Anthony Mckee, a junior who has offers from Illinois and Toledo, and junior lineman Joshua Jordan.
The Scots will be without defensive end Robert Bowers, who has made a verbal commitment to Michigan State. The 6-5, 210-pound senior likely will be sidelined until at least midseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
Groveport opened Aug. 30 at Westerville South.