The primary concern for Grove City High School girls volleyball coach Alan Pham in the early stages of this season is developing leadership.
The Greyhounds, who opened Aug. 24 with a 25-19, 25-17, 25-7 loss to DeSales, lost five starters from a year ago to graduation and don't have any seniors on their roster.
"We've always had seniors here to help lead our team, but we have a super young team this year and we're looking for some of the younger girls to lead now," Pham said.
"It's new territory for these girls to develop into leaders, so we're teaching them more than just volleyball skills. We're also teaching them leadership skills."
Grove City has returned one starter in junior outside hitter Amanda Radich, who had 259 kills, 209 digs, 26 aces and 26 blocks last season.
Junior libero Haven Kulp (148 digs) and junior setter Andrea Miller also have returned.
Completing the roster are juniors Kayla Ekers (opposite hitter) and Sarah Mitcham (middle hitter), sophomores Jorian George (middle hitter), Rae-Kelly Hamilton (outside hitter) and Haley Litman (defensive specialist) and freshman Gina Conti (middle hitter/outside hitter).
"We have a lot of talented athletes, including three girls who can touch (9 feet, 6 inches) or higher in Amanda, Rae-Kelly and Gina," Pham said. "Our goal is to become a team that works well together because we've got a lot of good individual talent."
Pham believes the Greyhounds have the potential to win the OCC-Ohio Division title and a Division I district championship this season.
Last year, Grove City finished 18-7 overall, tied for third in the league and reached a district semifinal before losing to third-seeded Westerville Central 26-24, 25-14, 24-26, 23-25, 15-11.
"There's been a big turnover in coaching in the OCC-Ohio this year, so it's hard to say if there's a favorite," Pham said. "Pickerington North, Gahanna, Newark and Groveport all have new coaches, so only time will tell what direction they are heading in. I think just off talent alone we can compete for league and district titles. The key is getting our girls playing together as one team."
Comets get out to strong start
It didn't take long for Central Crossing to surpass its win total from last season.
The Comets, who finished 4-19 overall a year ago, were 7-0 entering their OCC-Central opener Aug. 27 against Olentangy Liberty.
Central Crossing opened Aug. 17 by defeating Granville Christian 25-9, 25-18 and Harvest Prep 25-21, 25-12 in the Marysville Spike-Off. The Comets then defeated Whitehall 25-14, 25-15, 25-14 on Aug. 19, Briggs 25-23, 25-22, 25-17 on Aug. 20 and Bexley 25-23, 21-25, 25-13, 25-19 on Aug. 22 before beating Grandview 20-25, 25-14, 25-17 and Centerburg 25-19, 23-25, 25-17 on Aug. 24.
"We have been able to get off to a good start and surpass last year's season win total, which we are all really excited about," coach Julie Evans said. "Now we have the opportunity to build off of this good start and continue to improve as a group as we head into league play."
Last season, Central Crossing went 1-3 in the OCC-Central to finish eighth and lost to Lancaster 25-21, 25-18, 25-16 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
"Our goal for the OCC is to be able to compete with the top teams in the upper half of our division, and we would like to put ourselves in position for the postseason to make a run to the district (semifinals)," Evans said.
The Comets have returned four players who started multiple matches last season in seniors Erin Scott (defensive specialist), Rose LeVally (middle hitter), Hunter Taylor (outside hitter) and Kelsie Rivers (outside hitter).
Also back are juniors Payton Baker (middle hitter/opposite hitter), Bolaji Oseni (middle hitter) and Devin Werner (setter).
Rounding out the roster are juniors Madison Castle (outside hitter), Emily Roe (defensive specialist) and Molly Stenger (defensive specialist) and sophomores Tessa Andrick (setter) and Ally Gruen (setter).
"We feel that this year's team is a little more versatile and deeper than last season," Evans said. "Our biggest strength is our ability to combine scrappy defense with some solid hitting potential."