Dublin Coffman High School girls volleyball coach Mary Anne Souder was concerned when middle hitter Beatrice Hannan suffered a high ankle sprain during a 25-12, 25-14, 25-18 victory over Groveport in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17.
Despite the loss of one of their most athletic and experienced players through the remainder of the district tournament, the top-seeded Shamrocks defeated 12th-seeded Mount Vernon 25-11, 25-5, 25-18 in a semifinal Oct. 24 and fifth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 23-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-21 in a final Oct. 27, both at Big Walnut.
"Having Beatrice out of the lineup was a big loss, but this is the deepest and most talented team we've ever had and the girls still played great while she's recovering," Souder said. "It helps that we have a 6-foot backup (Kacey Barrett) that stepped in to play for her in the front row, and our libero (Morgan Mills) did an excellent job of subbing in for Kacey in the back row. Our depth has been a real advantage all season."
The Shamrocks improved to 22-3 and captured their sixth consecutive district title.
"I think we came out with some first-game jitters (against Bradley)," setter Jenn Vargo said. "We knew how important it was to keep this going after winning district titles for the past five years. We didn't want to break that streak.
"We lost Beatrice Hannan and we had to make the adjustments to a new lineup. After the first game, everything seemed to go back to normal."
The Shamrocks play Massillon Jackson in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at Hilliard Davidson.
Jackson beat Uniontown Lake 25-13, 25-13, 25-20 in a district final Oct. 25 to improve to 25-1. Setter Kristin Cardwell had 34 assists and four kills and middle hitter Paige Hill had 15 kills and five blocks.
"(Jackson) has a good middle hitter (in Hill) who is going to Miami (University) and can hit it anywhere on the court," Souder said. "They also have a good setter and are a decent team all around the court. We're going to have to play tough defense in the middle and play our game, and make sure we keep the ball away from (Hill)."
Souder said Hannan should be back to help block against Hill.
"Beatrice will be back and that will help a lot because Jackson is good and Paige Hill is their No. 1 hitter in the middle," Souder said. "The nice thing is we've got a lot of tall, athletic girls to help put up a big block against her."
The winner advances to a regional final against Pickerington North or Westerville Central at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Davidson.
"They are both tough teams, so that will be a great match to watch," Souder said. "Pickerington North has amazing setters and Westerville Central is a very big team that puts up a big block and has hitters who swing well.
"We have a lot of girls contributing. As always, McKenzie Bailey (outside hitter), Cassie Hausfeld (middle hitter/outside hitter) and Jenn Vargo are playing well. But Gabby Goodson (opposite hitter) was our unsung hero after we lost our first (game) against Bradley."
Bailey said the Shamrocks are motivated after losing to Pickerington North 22-25, 16-25, 25-14, 26-24, 15-12 in a regional semifinal a year ago. Coffman had lost in the state final each of the previous two seasons.
"I think losing in the regional semifinal really has kept us focused this year," Bailey said. "We had never lost a big match like that before. I think this team had to learn how to lose so it could learn how to win."
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal Nov. 8 at Wright State, with the final there two days later.