The Ready High School girls volleyball team doubled its win total under first-year coach Mike Kusan a year ago.
With four of its top players among a group of eight returning letterwinners, the Silver Knights are thinking big, particularly on offense.
After implementing a new system last year, Kusan believes his team will find even more ways to utilize the attacking skills of sophomore Erin Sekinger and junior Taylor Riggs in the middle.
Sekinger (6-foot-2) was first-team all-CCL last year. Riggs (5-11) also is a returning starter.
"Last year we were pretty basic, but this year we're going to be able to run more offensive schemes because have better passing and better decision-making," Kusan said.
"We should be more diverse offensively."
Senior Cayla Watson also was first-team all-CCL last year, and senior Sarah Gabel made the second team. Watson and Gabel will lead an outside-hitter group that also includes Kusan's daughter, sophomore Lindsey Kusan.
Senior Kelly Gantz and junior Olivia Johnson are the setters, with senior Samantha Covey expected to be the libero.
The other juniors are Susie Covey (defensive specialist), Veronica Ringel (right-side hitter) and Annie Schmidt (defensive specialist).
Kusan took over a program which had gone 74-110 in eight seasons under former coach April Walkley, including 7-16 in 2006. The Silver Knights improved to 14-9 overall last year, including going 5-5 in the CCL to place fourth behind champion Watterson (10-0).
Ready was the seventh seed for the Division III district tournament and beat Grandview 25-19, 25-7, 25-11 in the first round before falling to Worthington Christian 25-17, 21-25, 25-20, 25-22. In the regular season, the Silver Knights split with the Warriors.
Ready lost five graduates.
"We feel very confident," coach Kusan said.
"We are playing very well right now and we have a veteran team coming back from last year. We made a lot of progress last year.
"I expect us to challenge Watterson and Hartley in the CCL and to take Ready further than they've ever been in the tournament. The whole program has a real senseof urgency, and I'm excited about it."
•One of the biggest questions for the girls cross country team was regarding whether any of its competitors could become a No. 1 runner in the mold of graduate Sarah Welsh-Huggins.
That might not remain an area of concern for long.
Freshman Nicole Brown, a sister of 2008 graduate Brock Brown -- the quarterback on Ready's football team a year ago -- is the new top runner.
On Aug. 20 at the New Albany Classic, she finished 13th in 21 minutes, 48 seconds. Her time is among the best of any freshman since Dean Tower took over 18 years ago.
Another freshman, Michelle Kaiser, also looks like an impact runner after placing 22nd (22:26) at New Albany.
"I've got a good crop of freshmen out," Tower said. "After losing Sarah, I was wondering who I was going to bring in. I haven't had a freshman girl ever start off this fast."
Ready's No. 3 runner at New Albany was freshman Elli Moehrman (66th, 24:38). Also expected to compete for spots among the top seven for the Silver Knights are senior Angelina Mozzetti, sophomores Bailey Pierron, Julie Schwenderman, Katie Speed and Haley Widner and freshmen Chole Bowman and Jill Schwenderman.
Welsh-Huggins, who is running at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., became Ready's first state qualifier last fall since 1999. She finished second (20:06.8) at the CCL meet, second at the Division III district 2 meet (19:45) and 11th (20:26) at regional before placing 32nd at state in a program-record 19:44.
Ready also lost graduate Mary McAllister, who was 11th (21:20.61) at the league meet as the Silver Knights finished fifth (105) behind champion Hartley (43).
Widner was 20th (22:21.25) at the CCL meet but has been battling shin splints. Julie Schwenderman (35th, 24:14.11), Speed (37th, 25:15.4) and Mozzetti (39th, 28:47.32) also competed at the CCL meet.
•The boys cross country team has seven runners, including junior Andrew Mantell, who was a Division III regional qualifier last year.
Mantell, who was sixth (18:02) at the New Albany Classic where Ready did not have enough participants for a team score, is joined by senior Sean Walker, juniors Chris Gillis and Steve Perry and sophomores Evan Hutton, Robert Reed and David Schlanser.
Ready was fifth (135) at the CCL meet behind champion St. Charles (22) last year as Mantell was 10th (17:51.57). He also placed 10th at the district 2 meet (17:46.9) as the Silver Knights were eighth (198) behind champion Mount Gilead (31) and finished 43rd (18:11) at regional.
Perry, Schlanser and Gillis were regulars among the top seven last year and Walker competed two seasons ago.
"Mantell, Schlanser and Perry are running in a pretty decent pack and our work ethic is really great," Tower said.
At a glance
Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Ready boys and girls cross country, football, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 20 -- Boys: Did not post team score at New Albany Classic. Andrew Mantell was sixth (18:05); Girls: Finished 10th (255) in 16-team New Albany Classic behind champion Canal Winchester (29)
Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished 12th (271) in 15-team Newark Catholic Invitational behind champion Watkins Memorial (71). Mantell was seventh (17:48.1); Girls: Finished ninth (213) in 15-team Newark Catholic Invitational behind champion Newark Catholic (85). Michelle Kaiser was fifth (21:44) and Niki Brown was sixth (21:45.3).
Last Wednesday -- Competed at Canal Winchester Invitational
Last Friday -- Defeated Franklin Heights 42-0 in opener. Colin Leidinger rushed for 130 yards and five touchdowns.
Friday -- Home vs. St. Paris Graham at Franklin Heights. Last year, Ready won 42-0.
Aug. 19 -- Def. Westland 359-378 at Oakhurst
Aug. 21 -- Lost to Watterson 162-191 at Turnberry
Last Tuesday -- Played Hartley
Last Wednesday -- Played London
Today -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
Tuesday -- Home vs. DeSales
Last Saturday -- Lost to Johnstown3-1
*Tuesday -- Played DeSales
Of note: The Silver Knights were 0-2 before last Tuesday.
Last Saturday -- Def. Columbus Academy 4-1
Last Tuesday -- Played Fisher Catholic
*Tuesday -- At DeSales in CCL opener
Of note: The Silver Knights were 2-0 before last Tuesday.
Aug. 20 -- Def. Franklin Heights 4-1
*Last Tuesday -- Played Hartley in CCL opener
Last Wednesday -- Played Fisher Catholic
Sept. 9 --At Worthington Christian
Of note: The Silver Knights were 1-2 before last Tuesday.
Last Saturday -- Def. Mount Vernon 25-15, 25-15 in opener; lost to Upper Arlington 25-23, 25-12
Last Tuesday -- Played Buckeye Valley
Tuesday -- Home vs. Centennial