Anthony Randolph had inquired about becoming an assistant coach for the Watterson High School boys volleyball team so he could work with his younger brother, Matt, who is a senior setter.
When Nicole Baka stepped down as coach during the offseason, Randolph was offered the opportunity to replace her. The 2009 Watterson graduate, who played four seasons with the Eagles and four seasons at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, accepted the offer and became the Eagles' fifth coach in four seasons.
Watterson was 9-5 overall after winning the Buckey Classic on April 13 in Urbana. The Eagles beat DeSales 25-22, 27-25, Orland (Ill.) Carl Sandburg 25-18, 27-25 in a semifinal and Cincinnati Elder 25-15, 28-26 in the final.
"I wasn't even looking to become a head coach yet, but it's just how everything worked out," Randolph said. "I may be the most inexperienced coach around, but there's no coach in the state who knows more about volleyball than me and I've got a great group of captains who are helping me out, too, so I feel great about what we're doing together this season."
Watterson, which finished 15-8 overall last season, returned four starters in Randolph and seniors Parker Costello (libero), Matt Hughes (middle hitter) and Zackary Storc (outside hitter).
Randolph and Storc have committed to play for the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati.
Last season, Randolph had 592 assists, 155 kills and 88 aces and was named second-team all-state and first-team all-region in Division II and all-CCL. Storc, who had 402 kills, 279 digs and 69 blocks, was honorable mention all-state and first-team all-region and all-CCL.
Hughes was honorable mention all-region and second-team all-CCL and Costello was second-team all-league.
Seniors Luke Andracki (outside hitter) and Adam Schnit-key (middle hitter) and sophomore Dylan Egle (opposite hitter) also entered the season with significant experience.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Kevin Becker (libero) and Danny Lucia (setter), juniors Chuck Eberhart (opposite hitter), Matt Shauefale (defensive specialist) and Elliot Taylor (middle hitter), sophomores Max Hetterscheidt (middle hitter) and Anthony Valentino (outside hitter) and freshmen Chris Dahman (outside hitter), Gianne Parise (libero) and Alex Rector (outside hitter).
Andracki, Randolph, Schnitkey and Storc are team captains.
"We've got good talent and experience," coach Randolph said. "Their effort is always there and their leadership has been good."
Entering the week, Watterson had secured at least share of the CCL title by going 3-1 in league play. DeSales was 2-1 and St. Charles was 0-3 in the CCL before meeting in their league finale April 15.
Watterson split with DeSales, winning 22-25, 24-26, 29-27, 25-23, 15-13 on April 1 and losing 25-13, 25-20, 25-14 on April 10, after getting swept by the Stallions last year. The Eagles swept St. Charles, winning 25-15, 25-23, 25-20 on March 25 and 25-20, 20-25, 32-30, 22-25, 15-10 on April 8.
"Beating DeSales in such a close (match) to win the CCL is huge," coach Randolph said. "When I had our players fill out a questionnaire before the season, a lot of them said winning the CCL and going to the state final four were their goals. Now we're setting our sights on our second goal of winning a regional title.
"I don't care about what our record shows right now. It's all about the playoffs and who is hot at the right time."
Watterson lost to DeSales 25-12, 29-27, 27-29, 20-25, 15-13 in an East Region semifinal last season.
Lombardi returns for boys track team
Among the key returnees for the boys track and field team is senior Dominic Lombardi, the defending Division II state champion in the 300-meter hurdles.
Last season at state, Lombardi won the 300 hurdles in a program-record 38.13 seconds, placed seventh in the 110 hurdles (14.8) and teamed with junior Brad Kanney, senior Ryan Urquhart and senior Cody Calhoun to finish 10th in the 400 relay (43.94).
Calhoun, Kanney, Lombardi, Urquhart and juniors Tyler Bair and Tommy Wagner are leading the Eagles' sprint corps this season, and Bair and Lombardi are the team's top hurdlers.
Calhoun and Kanney also are competing in the long jump and Bair is competing in the high jump.
Sophomore Max McClelland and freshmen John Britt and Nick Haley lead the distance and middle distance corps.
"As always, a goal is to attract athletes to be part of the team," coach Matt McGowan said. "Sometimes we get boys out who never competed in track before, so it takes some time to develop. ... We have some young runners and throwers who will hopefully develop during the season and help the team."
The Eagles, who opened April 1 by placing fifth (50 points) in the 12-team Booster Invitational behind champion and host Hamilton Township (146), are looking to finish higher in the CCL meet this season after finishing fifth (74) behind champion St. Charles (175) last year.
Watterson also is hoping to fare well in the postseason. It had two state champions a year ago, with 2013 graduate Joe Mankovecky being the other. Mankovecky, who won state titles in the high jump the past two seasons, cleared a program-record 6-10 last year at state.
"We had two state champions last year, (so) our main goal is to try to get athletes back to state," McGowan said. "Watterson has had three state champions in the last (two years), which says a lot for the hard work of those individuals. We also hope to qualify as many athletes as possible for the regional.
"It will be good to compete in our normal division after the boys cross country team was forced to move up (to Division I last fall) based on combined enrollment. There were 64 schools with more boys than us who ran Division II, but our boys were forced to move up to Division I."
Girls track team off to impressive start
The girls track and field team won the first two large meets it competed in this season.
Watterson opened April 1 by scoring 137 points to win the 11-team Booster Invitational ahead of runner-up Northland (114).
Placing first were freshman J'Niah Johnston-Reynolds in the 400 (1:05.22), junior Amy Griffith in the 800 (2:34.14) and 1,600 (5:57.94), junior Jessica Passwater in the 3,200 (12:52), the 1,600 relay of Johnston-Reynolds, freshman Juliana Rotolo, senior Hanna Merklin and junior Taylor Koehler (4:24.93) and the 3,200 relay of Griffith, Passwater, sophomore Caroline Sugar and freshman Sam Mikula (10:26.61).
On April 12, the Eagles finished first (81) in the 12-team Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays ahead of runner-up Olentangy (76).
"I don't think we've ever had a start like this in the 18 years I've been here," assistant coach Steve Taliaferro said. "We're looking good in the distance events, but we're a balanced team and we've been able to score in just about everything."
Koehler and sophomore Leah Paskell are the team's top hurdlers, senior Becca Gallagher and Hanna Merklin are among its top sprinters, junior Abby Malone, sophomore Leah Paskell and freshman Michelle Lehmann are its top athletes in the high jump and long jump and senior Dominique Garrett, junior Marissa Wierzbicki, sophomore Bailey Spees and freshman Claire Voegele are its top athletes in the throws.
"We have a lot of depth on our team," Taliaferro said. "I feel good about our start, but we'll learn a lot about ourselves as we continue competing in tougher meets over the next month."
The Eagles are aiming to win the CCL meet after finishing third (105) last season behind DeSales (114) and Columbus School for Girls (112).
"CSG has to be the favorite on paper because they were second last year and they've added some good distance runners who helped their cross country team win the CCL in the fall," Taliaferro said. "Hartley's always a factor and DeSales should be as well, but I think we can contend for the CCL if we stay healthy and keep getting better."