Getting to the state tournament for the first time a year ago is beginning to pay dividends for the Ready High School girls volleyball program.
"It was a whole different atmosphere being at state last year," junior defensive specialist Lauren Rivera said. "The gym was so big and there were bright lights and I don't know if we were ready. I think we're ready this time."
The Silver Knights will get a chance to prove whether that is true when they open the Division III state tournament against Orrville at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9, at Wright State.
The winner plays Bloom-Carroll or Casstown Miami East for the championship at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. Miami East is the defending state champion.
Ready improved to 19-8 with regional wins over Huron (25-22, 15-25, 25-21, 21-25, 15-13 on Nov. 1) and Coldwater (25-21, 25-18, 10-25, 25-23 on Nov. 3) at Findlay.
Orrville beat Cuyahoga Heights 25-23, 25-21, 25-19 on Nov. 3 in a regional final and is 21-7.
Bloom-Carroll defeated Ready 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 27-29, 20-18 on Sept. 17 on the way to earning the top seed for the district tournament. The Bulldogs beat Zanesville West Muskingum 25-18, 25-20, 26-24 on Nov. 3 in a regional final to improve to 22-3.
Miami East defeated Anna 25-16, 25-22, 25-12 on Nov. 3 in a regional final and is 27-1. It hasn't lost a game since its only loss this season Sept. 29 to Hartley (25-19, 24-26, 25-22, 16-25, 15-12).
"Orrville is 21-7 and they have two good middle hitters," coach Mike Kusan said. "We're up for the challenge. There's probably nobody left who's better than DeSales and Hartley. We didn't play Miami East, but they played Hartley toward the end of the season.
"We like our chances. Last year was a good experience to get to the final four. For our school and for our players, they've worked hard to get here and this one is sweeter because it's harder to get back. This one was a lot more focused."
According to Kusan, Karley Kusan had more than 30 kills during the regional tournament. Miranda Ball and Rose Thacker also were standouts on offense, while Dani Mercer served as an "energizer" on defense, coach Kusan said.
Ball, Karley Kusan, Mercer, Rivera, Thacker and Carly Culbertson saw action a year ago when Ready lost to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 in a state semifinal.
"We're really scrappy," Rivera said. "It's awesome, just being back here with a lot of the same girls from last year. We just have to stay disciplined and stay true to what our coaches say."
Football team falls in playoff opener
A lost fumble and a big play on special teams by host Genoa Area led to the end of the season for the football team in the first round of the Division IV, Region 14 playoffs Nov. 2.
Ready lost three of its final four after a 6-0 start, including 42-21 to Genoa Area to finish 7-3. Genoa Area scored 20 fourth-quarter points and improved to 11-0.
The Silver Knights took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt Yoho. Genoa Area scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns to go up 14-7, but Ready's Doug Strickler broke for a 74-yard scoring run in the third quarter to tie it.
Genoa Area answered with a pair of touchdowns to make it 28-14 and increased the lead to 35-14 on a 79-yard punt return for a score by Ryan Espinoza.
"We pretty much controlled the game in the first half," two-way lineman Brady Taylor said. "We were moving it on offense and I don't think the score reflected how close it was."
Ready totaled 364 yards but allowed 455. Strickler rushed for 120 yards on 11 carries and Yoho rushed for two scores, but the Silver Knights were limited to 40 yards passing.
Girls soccer team closes best season
The best season in the history of the girls soccer program ended with a 2-0 loss to Middletown Fenwick in a Division III regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Hilliard Bradley.
Fenwick was ranked first in the final state poll and Ready was sixth.
"(Fenwick is) the No. 1 team in the state for a reason," coach Jason Montgomery said. "I thought we stayed with them real well."
Ready, which advanced to a district final for the first time a year ago, finished 15-3-2. The Silver Knights went 1-2-1 in the CCL to finish behind Watterson (4-0), DeSales (2-1-1) and Hartley (1-1-2) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (0-4).
Ready was seeded first for the district tournament and opened with wins over Columbus International (16-0 on Oct. 15), CSG (5-0 on Oct. 18) and Worthington Christian (3-1 on Oct. 23).
On Oct. 27, the Silver Knights beat Grandview 1-0 for their first district championship.
"This is great for Ready to get here," said Montgomery, who was hired after Casey McKinney stepped down in the offseason. "We've got lots of sophomores and freshmen coming back, so that's a good starting point."
Donavan Capehart, a senior midfielder who will go to Ohio State as a recruited walk-on, will be the biggest loss. She was district Player of the Year and finished with 21 goals and 12 assists.
Hailey Cartt, Kim Lloyd and Brooke Ringel all were senior starters.
The top returnee should be junior forward Caroline Riewe, who had 23 goals and 14 assists. Junior Jordan Bair and sophomores Angelique Bowman, Marina Sweet and Ashlyn Szabo are other expected returnees. Freshman Delaney Cutteridge scored the only goal in the district final.
Most of top runners to return
Both of the regional representatives from the cross country program are eligible to return.
Sophomore Matthew Platter placed 58th (18 minutes, 31.45 seconds) in the Division III regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North as the top 16 advanced to state.
Freshman Kathleen Colvin was 72nd (21:42.28) in the Division II regional at Pickerington North.
"I'm really happy with both teams," said Dean Tower, who has coached the cross country program since 1984. "The boys team really matured. We lost a lot of girls from last year, but these girls stepped up and were competing all year long. We've got (Colvin) back for the girls team and Platter back. They were outstanding and exceeded my expectations."
Platter was eighth (17:39.4) in the CCL meet Oct. 13 at Westerville Recreation Center as the boys team was fourth (116) behind St. Charles (19), Watterson (56) and DeSales (68) and ahead of Hartley (120).
Ready finished eighth (217) in the district 1 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Liberty Union (44). Platter was 11th (17:40.15) to move on, followed by senior William Platter (32nd, 18:52.56) and sophomores Mark Vatter (54th, 20:03.49), Stephen Landy (69th, 21:32.56), Mark Gnatowski (70th, 21:44.71), Adam Hutton (74th, 22:22.65) and Andrew Duncan (75th, 22:32.95).
The girls team was fourth (76) behind Watterson (49), DeSales (53) and CSG (75) and ahead of Hartley (90) in the CCL meet as Colvin was fifth (21:02.4).
Ready was sixth (194) in the 14-team district meet behind champion Granville (41). Colvin placed 13th (21:08.89) to advance.
Sophomore Courtney Bair (31st, 22:23.29) and juniors Madeline Bowen (40th, 22:52.82), Allie Schroeder (52nd, 23:43.88), Sydney Gammon (75th, 24:51.98), Brianne Schell (85th, 25:39.51) and Maria Ciotola (90th, 26:01.11) also competed at district.