A pair of familiar faces to the Gahanna Christian Academy community again will be guiding the school's girls volleyball team.

A pair of familiar faces to the Gahanna Christian Academy community again will be guiding the school's girls volleyball team.

Nate Kirk and his wife, Anna, have returned to coach the Eagles. They replace Becky Grubich, who resigned in the spring following one season as coach.

Last season, Gahanna Christian finished 11-11 overall and 3-7 in the MOCAL, tying Fairfield Christian for fourth behind Madison Christian (9-1), Tree of Life (8-2) and Delaware Christian (6-4) and ahead of Grove City Christian (1-9).

The Eagles lost to Harvest Prep 25-19, 25-16, 25-22 in the first round of the Division IV district tournament.

Nate Kirk was coach and Anna Kirk was an assistant with the program from 2007-09. They have remained in the same capacities in their return.

"It's fun to be back," said Nate Kirk, who also coaches the school's boys volleyball team. "The team is looking real good. ... We're looking forward to a good season."

Gahanna Christian, which opened against Delaware Christian on Aug. 30, will visit defending MOCAL champion Madison Christian on Thursday, Sept. 1.

The Eagles return several key players from last season, including senior setter Sara Kirk, the Kirks' daughter. Last season, Kirk led the team in assists with 333 and was honorable mention all-MOCAL and all-district.

"I feel like we're going to do really well this year," Sara Kirk said. "I'm excited to play with my team and I'm hoping we do better than 11-11. Keys will be our defense with passing and hitting balls to target, making our three hits and putting the ball to the floor."

Also back is junior middle hitter Alex Sutton, who led the team in aces last year with 42. She also was honorable mention all-MOCAL and all-district.

Other returnees are senior defensive specialist Ashlee Carroll and junior outside hitters Christina Grubich and Hope Leimbach.

Sophomore Cierra Jackson (middle hitter) and freshmen Jenna Kirk and Alex Grubich (defensive specialist) round out the team. Jenna Kirk also is the coaches' daughter, while Christina and Alex Grubich are the daughters of the former coach.

Alex Grubich is expected to miss the early part of the season with a broken finger.

Nate Kirk expects Tree of Life to contend with Madison Christian for the MOCAL championship. Granville Christian has joined the league.

"All the teams in the MOCAL are tough, so we're going to have our work cut out to beat them," he said. "I'd like to win 15 matches. We're playing a full 20-match schedule and I'm laying out a goal to get to 15."

•With 11 returnees, the boys soccer team appears ready to again challenge in the MOCAL.

Last season, the Eagles finished 8-7-3 overall and 2-1-1 in the MOCAL, placing third behind Tree of Life (3-0-1) and Madison Christian (2-0-2) and ahead of Delaware Christian (1-3) and Grove City Christian (0-4).

Gahanna Christian defeated Harvest Prep 2-1 in the first round of the Division III district tournament before losing to second-seeded Worthington Christian 6-0.

The Eagles opened the season with a 9-1 win over Patriot Prep on Aug. 23. Sophomore forward Connor Maclellan, who was honorable mention all-MOCAL last season, scored four goals and junior midfielder Patrick Thomas, who was the team's goalkeeper last season, had two goals.

"The game gave our team a lot of confidence," said coach Brandon McCoy, who is in his seventh season with the Eagles. "We've played this team in the past. Patriot has gone through a growing period because they've had a split with their school where half of the school went to Liberty Christian East."

Freshman Alec Schlesselman has replaced Thomas at goalkeeper.

Other key returnees are senior defender Keegan Parsons, who was second-team all-MOCAL last season, and sophomore forward Connor Dyckes, who was honorable mention all-MOCAL.

Also back are juniors Zeke Jugan (forward) and Garrett Miller (midfielder) and sophomores Jared Downing (midfielder), Josh Ohm (forward/midfielder), Dakota Ramsey (midfielder), Micah Sauder (midfielder) and Joseph Schoen (defender).

Rounding out the team are senior defenders Michael Schoen and Jacob Smiley and freshman forward/midfielder John Jugan. Smiley transferred from Reynoldsburg prior to his junior year but had to sit out last season because of eligibility issues.

McCoy believes Tree of Life is the favorite to win the MOCAL again this season, but he hopes his team remains in contention throughout the season. Granville Christian has been added to the league.

"I like what I've seen so far," McCoy said. "We're probably at least two or three wins better than last year's team. If we're playing our top soccer throughout the season, we could have an 11-, 12-win season."