Scioto working to build team chemistry
The Dublin Scioto High School girls volleyball team didn't have the best chemistry while struggling to a 3-20 overall record a year ago.
In an effort to better unify the squad, several of the returning players organized team dinners and sleepovers during the offseason.
Third-year coach Jackie Helm said those efforts already are paying dividends, as the Irish won two of their first four matches this season.
Scioto opened Aug. 25 with a 17-25, 25-19, 25-19 loss to Chillicothe and a 25-19, 20-25, 28-26 win over Lancaster. The Irish opened OCC-Cardinal Division play Aug. 28 with a 25-10, 25-15, 25-10 loss to Westerville Central but beat Westerville North 21-25, 24-26, 25-23, 25-18, 15-11 in a league match Aug. 30.
"Our big goal was learning to be a team and doing a better job of supporting each other because we didn't jell or have the right chemistry last year," Helm said. "The girls put a lot of effort into our team bonding since the end of last season and that's already translated into better results."
Five starters have returned in seniors Alexa Pothoven (libero) and Taylor Martin (defensive specialist), juniors McKenzie Schuster (middle hitter) and Kelsey Esterline (outside hitter) and sophomore Maddie Wilcox (middle hitter).
Pothoven was honorable mention all-league last season.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Kelly Clark (outside hitter) and Alexis Van de Velde (middle hitter), junior Casey Mandeville (setter) and sophomores Morgan Eveland (setter), Satsuki Kubo (outside hitter) and Ashton Pfeiffer (outside hitter).
"We're still a young team, but a lot of our girls are returning with a lot of varsity experience," Helm said.
Last season, Scioto finished last in the OCC-Cardinal at 1-13, behind Westerville Central (14-0), Olentangy Liberty (12-2), Olentangy (9-5), Westerville North (9-5), Jerome (4-10), Marysville (4-10) and Westerville South (3-11).
The Irish lost to sixth-seeded Upper Arlington 25-10, 25-21, 25-16 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne have replaced Liberty, Marysville and Olentangy in the OCC-Cardinal.
"Westerville Central has a very talented group of seniors who have played varsity volleyball since they were sophomores, so they are still the favorite to win our league," Helm said. "But if we come out and play as well as we did against Westerville North in the rest of our league matches, we'll be in the mix, too."
Shamrocks pursuing league, district titles
Coffman, which finished 22-5 overall last year, opened Aug. 28 with a 25-18, 25-23, 24-26, 25-11 win over Hilliard Davidson in an OCC-Central match.
The Shamrocks lost to Hartley 25-22, 27-25, 25-18 on Aug. 29 but bounced back to defeat Marysville 25-18, 25-18, 25-13 in a league match the next day.
Four third-year starters have returned in seniors McKenzie Bailey (outside hitter), Cassie Hausfeld (middle hitter/outside hitter) and Jenn Vargo (setter) and junior Beatrice Hannan (middle hitter/outside hitter).
Last season, Hausfeld was first-team all-district and the OCC-Central Player of the Year.
Vargo, a Duquesne recruit, was second-team all-district and all-league.
Bailey was honorable mention all-district and special mention all-league, and Hannan was special mention all-league.
Junior opposite hitter Gabby Goodson, who was honorable mention all-league last year, and sophomore middle hitter Mahlia Blair also are back.
Rounding out the lineup are seniors Molly Davis (outside hitter), Megan Mills (defensive specialist) and Lauren Norman (defensive specialist), juniors Kacey Barrett (opposite hitter) and Kelsey Kiley (defensive specialist), sophomores Sydney Eiselt (defensive specialist) and Becca Sabol (outside hitter) and freshmen Zoe Birnbrich (middle hitter) and Alli Sabol (opposite hitter).
"We have just as much talent as we had last year and we're deeper," Bailey said.
Last year, the Shamrocks went 14-0 in the OCC-Central to win their fifth consecutive league title. Rounding out the standings were Upper Arlington (12-2), Davidson (8-6), Kilbourne (7-7), Central Crossing (7-7), Thomas Worthington (6-8), Darby (2-12) and Westland (0-14).
Liberty and Marysville have replaced Darby and Kilbourne in the OCC-Central.
Third-seeded Coffman opened the Division I district tournament with a 25-9, 25-5, 25-20 win over Reynoldsburg before defeating Zanesville 25-9, 25-8, 25-9 in the second round.
The Shamrocks then defeated Canal Winchester 25-20, 25-20, 25-19 in a semifinal before beating fifth-seeded Liberty 25-21, 30-28, 25-15 in a final to capture its program-record fifth consecutive district title.
Coffman then lost to Pickerington North 22-25, 16-25, 25-14, 26-24, 15-12 in a regional semifinal.
"We're shooting for what we're always shooting for, and that's to go to state," Bailey said. "But (seventh-year coach Mary Anne Souder) always says that the first thing we need to focus on is winning the OCC, so that's what we'll do. Upper Arlington and Hilliard Davidson have good teams this year, and Liberty is going to be a contender, too."
Celtics get out to strong start
Jerome opened Aug. 28 with an OCC-Cardinal loss to Bradley (26-24, 25-17, 25-19) before beating Darby 23-25, 25-19, 25-17, 26-24 in a league match Aug. 30.
On Sept. 1, the Celtics defeated Thomas 25-16, 25-22 and Central Crossing 25-18, 25-19.
After tying for fifth in the OCC-Cardinal last year, Jerome lost to ninth-seeded Thomas 27-25, 25-22, 28-26 in its Division I district tournament opener to finish 4-15 overall.
"It's been a long time since we've started a season this strong," ninth-year coach Katherine Fogg said. "Westerville Central's probably still the strongest team in the OCC, but I think we have a shot at finishing in the upper half of our league this year."
Four starters are back in senior setter Ally Oman, senior outside hitter Sydney Rapp, senior libero Shelby Russell and senior middle hitter Leah Starsky.
Russell was honorable mention all-league a year ago.
Senior Kori Johnson, who started at setter as a sophomore, has returned to the team after choosing not to play last year.
Rounding out the roster are senior outside hitter Meghan Casey, juniors Emma Hallowell (opposite hitter) and Lexi Murphy (middle hitter), sophomore middle hitter Gabby Garren and freshmen Sophie Mercker (outside hitter) and Kyra Wisnieswki (defensive specialist).
"Our biggest obstacle is getting the girls to not settle for losing because that's what they're used to," Fogg said. "Now that they're getting a taste for winning, they're getting hungry for more."