Entering his second season as coach of the Grove City High School girls volleyball team, Alan Pham believes his team is ready to reach new heights.

Entering his second season as coach of the Grove City High School girls volleyball team, Alan Pham believes his team is ready to reach new heights.

Last year, the Greyhounds finished 9-14 overall after losing to ninth-seeded Dublin Scioto 25-8, 25-20, 25-15 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. They were last in the OCC-Buckeye Division at 1-9.

"As far as goals, we just want to do better than last season, much better," Pham said. "There isn't much of a history here when it comes to volleyball, so we always talked about building up a program that the players can be proud of. We've got a lot of talent coming back and coming in and I think we're headed in the right direction for that goal."

Several factors bode well for Pham and the team. One aiding the cause is having three players 6-foot or taller -- seniors Tori Crump (6-0) and Monica Reis (6-1) as well as sophomore Ellen Conti (6-0).

"This may be the tallest team we've ever had at Grove City," Pham said. "We'll certainly be using their height to our advantage on both offense and defense."

Grove City also returns seven players who have varsity experience.

Leading the way are Shelby Sampson and Conti. Sampson, one of five returning seniors, led the team in aces and was second in kills from her outside hitter position.

Conti (middle hitter/outside hitter), a sophomore, led the team in kills and blocks last year.

"Expectations are high, particularly for these two players as both were vital to the offense and defense last season," Pham said.

Other returning letterwinners include seniors Rebecca Carl (opposite, outside hitter), Crump (opposite/middle hitter), Rachel Fraser (defensive specialist/outside hitter) and Gabby Miller (outside hitter/setter) and junior Jesse Miller (setter/defensive specialist).

Rounding out the squad are senior Reis (middle hitter), junior Heather Davis (libero) and sophomore Amber Kennett (setter).

"With the amount of returning letterwinners along with six seniors, I think our mental game will get a boost from the maturity of these seniors," Pham said. "Also, the combination of height from our middles and quickness from our defensive players, we should have the right mix to be very successful this season."

Beside the return of several key players, Pham believes the team has improved tremendously off the court.

"Last season I think I wanted the players to do things they just weren't physically capable of doing," he said. "Even though we had plyometric and conditioning last summer, we didn't reach peak physical condition until the latter part of the season and that's just way too late.

"This year we started weightlifting in February and worked into the summer with plyo and agility training. I think we're much better off this year in terms of physical preparation than we were a year ago. We've seen players in better physical shape and vertical jump improved between 1 to 3.5 inches heading into tryout so I'm excited about that."

Grove City now is in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg.

Central Crossing, under second-year coach Julie Peters, opened with a pair of wins last Saturday over Briggs 23-25, 25-10, 25-6 and Mifflin 25-11, 25-6.

"I liked how they played after the first game," Peters said. "They stepped up and played our game and how we like to play."

Last year the Comets finished 11-12 overall, losing to Newark 25-15, 25-16, 25-22 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. They tied Thomas Worthington for fourth in the OCC-Central behind champion Pickerington North (10-0).

The Comets now are in the OCC-Central with Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas, Upper Arlington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

"It's a new league with different teams and different competition," Peters said. "It will provide a good challenge for us."

Central Crossing features a balanced roster with four seniors, five juniors and a pair of sophomores.

Seniors include returning letterwinners Dana Barber (outside hitter/defensive specialist, Brittany Hendershot (defensive specialist) and Chloe Richardson (outside hitter/middle hitter). Alicia Wyatt (outside/defensive specialist) played junior varsity last season.

Setter Julie Shives leads the junior class along with Claire Bohne (middle blocker), Julia Chapman (defensive specialist), Kelsey Kuehner (right-side) and Natalie Rizzonellie (right side/setter).

Shives, who serves as a captain with Hendershot (honorable mention all-OCC last year) and Richardson, was second-team all-league last season and is expected to contribute more this season.

"(Shives) has matured and become a more advanced player," Peters said. "She has stepped up and she is more of a leader this year."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Miranda Mounts (outside/middle) and Paige Zelich (middle).

"Even though we are younger and aren't too tall the girls are really talented and are an athletic bunch," Peters said.

"We have some versatile players that can run quick and are able to run different offenses and defenses. They catch on pretty quick. It can be an excitingseason and we can step it up to the next level and do better things."

At a glance

CENTRAL CROSSING

Coach: Julie Peters, second season

Next match: Today vs. Hilliard Darby

Key players: Brittany Hendershot, Chloe Richardson and Julie Shives

GROVE CITY

Coach: Alan Pham, second season

Next match: Today vs. Groveport

Key players: Ellen Conti and Shelby Sampson