Another year means another season in which Big Walnut High School girls volleyball coach Ron Lehman has high expectations for his team.
Last year, the Golden Eagles finished 16-5 overall and went 13-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to capture their 11th league title in 13 seasons.
Olentangy (12-2) placed second in the OCC-Capital, followed by Mount Vernon (11-3), New Albany (7-7), Delaware Hayes (6-8), Olentangy Orange (5-9), Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
"We expect to win the OCC again," said Lehman, who was named OCC-Capital Coach of the Year last year. "That's one of our goals. We have a shot at it."
Worthington Kilbourne has moved into the OCC-Capital after being in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago. The Wolves replace Watkins Memorial, which left for the revived Licking County League.
"Watkins has been down the last few years," Lehman said. "Kilbourne has a good program. We haven't played them over the years. They'll be new for us.
"Olentangy is always strong. Mount Vernon is, too. There will definitely be some competition."
Expected to play major roles this season are four returnees in seniors Morgan Alley (setter), Kalynn Bowmar (middle hitter) and Brooke Hatfield (outside hitter) and junior Claire Chatterton (outside hitter).
Last season, Alley was second-team all-league and Bowmar, who was third on the team in kills (135), was honorable mention all-league. Chatterton was second on the team in digs (140).
Others expected to be key contributors are juniors Rachel O'Morrow and Krista Schmidt and sophomores Abby Kitchen, Tiffany Soisson and Kylie Stickrath.
Big Walnut lost four players from last year to graduation, including middle hitter Natalie Chatterton and outside hitter Abby Painter.
Chatterton, who led the team with 188 kills and was third on the team with 40 aces, was OCC-Capital Player of the Year and first-team all-district. Painter was second on the team in kills (161) and first in aces (47) and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
"It leaves a big hole," Lehman said of the 2-13 graduates. "But it gives other kids an opportunity to step up and take their places on the team."
Big Walnut opened with a 25-15, 25-12, 25-12 loss to Hartley on Aug. 22 before falling to Olentangy 25-19, 25-15, 14-25, 25-21 on Aug. 27 in its OCC-Capital opener to drop to 0-2.
"I think (the girls) were a little intimidated by Hartley," Lehman said. "They're a really good team. It's a rough way to start out. Our younger kids probably weren't quite as prepared mentally. Hopefully they learn from that."
Big Walnut, which lost in a Division II district semifinal each of the past two seasons, has moved up to Division I for the first time. The Golden Eagles, who have won 15 district titles under Lehman, were the Division II state runners-up in 2010.
"We definitely want to do something in the (district) tournament," Lehman said. "It's going to be a little different this year, moving to D-I. It's different teams than what we've played in the past. But our seasonal schedule is primarily D-I (opponents), so we have experience there."
Kahrmann, Hemming lead runners in opener
The cross country teams opened the season by competing in the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 24 at Pickerington North.
The boys team finished 12th (309 points) in the 18-team Bengal Division of the event behind champion Watkins Memorial (61) and the girls team placed 10th (263) in the 13-team Bengal Division behind champion Thomas Worthington (62).
Junior Jon Kahrmann led the boys team, finishing 17th of 165 runners in 18 minutes, 32.9 seconds, followed by sophomore Michael McGowan (61st, 20:22.3), freshman Zach MacDonald (90th, 21:40.6), freshman Jonathan Schipke (93rd, 21:45.3) and freshman D.J. Werner (104th, 22:34.5).
Kahrmann is one of five returnees who competed in the 12-team Division II, district 2 meet last year at Watkins Memorial. The others are seniors Jacob Oppenheimer and Logan Perry and juniors Bobby Bogantz and Jared Boseker.
Big Walnut finished 10th (280) at district behind champion Hilliard Davidson (39), with Hilliard Darby (136) being the fifth and final regional qualifier. The Golden Eagles did not have any individual regional qualifiers.
Also on the boys team are senior Hayden Althauser, sophomore Josiah Armbrust and freshmen Wesley Hammond, Joshua Jerome, Reilly Mengel, Aaron Stanwick, Grant Wecker and Mason Wright.
Junior Makenna Hemming led the girls team in the Pickerington Classic, finishing 45th (22:33.5) of 202 runners. Junior Mikaela Smith (60th, 23:18.8) was next, followed by junior Addison Shawver (62nd, 23:25.7), senior Olivia Daggett (69th, 24:01.5) and senior Catie Craig-Bowden (79th, 24:25.4).
Craig-Bowden, Hemming and Shawver all competed in the 14-team Division I, district 1 meet last year at Watkins Memorial, as Big Walnut finished 11th (275) behind champion Davidson (35).
Pickerington Central (135) secured the fifth and final regional-qualifying berth.
Big Walnut had one individual regional qualifier in 2013 graduate Bethany Bogantz, who placed 59th (20:50.47) of 118 runners.
Rounding out the girls team are seniors Devin Ardner and Mea Wank, juniors Samantha Godby and Helena Mack, sophomores Rachael Brown, Mara Hartings, Maddie Jenkins, Mary Jenkins, Erin Lanning, Selena McVay and Cassidy Willison and freshmen Caroline Craig-Bowden, Audrey LeMaster and Abbey Pauly.
The boys and girls teams competed in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 28 and the Granville Invitational on Aug. 31 at Bryn Du Mansion.
Football team getting ready for familiar foe
The football team plays host to Chillicothe on Friday, Sept. 6, marking the eighth season in a row in which it has faced the Cavaliers.
Big Walnut is 6-1 against Chillicothe since 2006, including a 22-19 win last season. The Cavaliers beat the Golden Eagles 24-20 in 2008.
Chillicothe, which finished 4-6 last year, has dropped from Division II to Division III and has moved from the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League to the South Central Ohio League.
The Cavaliers have 23 returning letterwinners and run a triple-option offense under fourth-year coach Ron Hinton, who entered the season with 293 career wins. He guided Amanda-Clearcreek to Division V state titles in 1999 and 2000.
Among Chillicothe's key players are quarterback Ryan Mathis, running back Julius Lee and linemen Josh Leonard.
Big Walnut, which opened Aug. 30 at Mansfield Senior, went 6-4 last season, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Like Chillicothe, the Golden Eagles have dropped from Division II to Division III.