Having fallen one win shy of a Division I district title last season, the Hilliard Bradley High School girls volleyball team wants to take the next step.
The Jaguars return six starters from a year ago when they finished 21-5 overall, went 11-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place second behind Westerville Central (14-0) and lost to Dublin Coffman 23-25, 25-16, 25-16, 25-21 in a district final.
Senior libero Jen Espenschied and senior setter Christy Tieman are both four-year starters and senior Lexi Jacobs and junior Raimey Benson (6-foot-1) are both third-year starters at outside hitter. Juniors Darby Connors (6-2, middle hitter) and Meredith Miller (outside hitter) also are returning starters.
Last season, Espenschied was first-team all-district and all-league and Tieman was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. Benson and Connors were second-team and special mention all-league.
Bradley was 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Westerville Central on Sept. 3 and had yet to lose a game.
“The strength of our team is power,” coach RyAnne Ufferman said. “We have hitters that allow us to vary our offense. They can play more than one position and that allows us to adjust our lineup as needed.”
The Jaguars opened Aug. 22 by defeating New Albany 25-14, 25-13, 25-22 before winning all three matches to earn the title in the Sharon Wohrer Invitational on Aug. 24 at Lancaster. They defeated New Concord John Glenn (25-19, 25-13), Zanesville West Muskingum (25-11, 25-13) and Lancaster (25-22, 25-19). Bradley beat Dublin Jerome 25-11, 25-13, 25-3 on Aug. 27 in its league opener and defeated Westerville South 26-24, 25-10, 25-19 on Aug. 29 in league play.
“We are playing very up and down right now,” Ufferman said. “At times, we are working as a unit, and other times we just look flat. We need to control the momentum and control the game.”
Rounding out the roster are junior Kaylee Ewen (defensive specialist), sophomores Emily Collins (defensive specialist), Alexia Crosby (setter/outside hitter), Nikki Ewen (defensive specialist), Haylie Phillips (setter/outside hitter) and McKenna Warner (outside hitter) and freshmen Aidan Johnson (defensive specialist) and Sara Oates (middle hitter).
Wildcats coach likes team’s chemistry
Davidson returns three starters from last season, when it finished 16-8 overall and 10-4 in the OCC-Central to place third behind Coffman (14-0) and Olentangy Liberty (12-2), and four overall.
Juniors Olivia Canestraro (outside hitter; honorable mention all-league), Meghan Munson (setter; second-team all-league) and Anne Schroeder (middle hitter) are back from last season, and junior outside hitter Meghan Murphy, who started as a freshman but missed last season with a back injury, has returned.
“They all bring something different to the program, but as a whole, they are very strong,” coach Betty Cameron said. “We have very good team chemistry. (The players) all get along and they all want to get better.”
Also on the team are senior Kaitlyn Holcutt (defensive specialist), juniors Katie Fugitt (outside hitter), Maddie Griffin (setter) and Ally Litzinger (defensive specialist), sophomores Emily Landenberger (opposite hitter) and Ryann Potter (opposite/middle hitter) and freshmen Kendyl Paris (middle/outside hitter) and Ari Sherzai (defensive specialist).
“I have a young team in experience, but they do work hard,” said Cameron, whose team was 5-2 and 1-1 before playing Central Crossing on Sept. 3. “We’re trying to be consistent throughout the match.”
Davidson defeated Teays Valley 25-7, 25-10, 25-12 in its opener Aug. 20 and lost to Mansfield Madison 25-17, 25-19, 27-25 on Aug. 24. It lost to Coffman 25-27, 25-23, 25-17, 17-25, 15-8 in its league opener Aug. 27 before defeating Central Crossing 25-10, 25-12, 25-12 on Aug. 29 in a league match.
The Wildcats played host to the Sharon Huesman quad-match Aug. 31, defeating Newark (25-21, 25-9), Delaware (25-15, 25-16) and Darby (25-15, 25-17).
Panthers looking to stay on ‘same page’
Darby returns four starters from last season when it finished 8-16 overall and 5-9 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie for fourth.
Seniors Ellie Mathews (libero) and Caitlin Snyder (middle hitter) and juniors Gabby Adrian (setter/right-side hitter) and Maddie Platfoot (outside/right-side hitter) are back as starters. Another key returnee is senior Katie Moore (outside/right-side hitter)
The Panthers were 5-3 and 1-1 before playing Canal Winchester on Sept. 3.
“The strength of our team is the overall ability of every girl,” coach Liz Rundio said. “Each varsity player has an important role and, if we all get the job done every night, then we will be a strong team. All of the girls get along on the court and off the court, which helps tremendously.”
Rounding out the roster are juniors Emily Davis (defensive specialist), Sarah Schroeder (setter/defensive specialist) and Claire O’Toole (outside/right-side hitter), sophomores Maddie Kucinic (outside/right-side hitter), Elizabeth Lake (middle hitter) and Lyric Mendez (middle hitter) and freshman Kali Apelt (setter/right-side hitter).
“I’m very excited for this year because we have a great group of girls and three seniors who will lead the way and show the younger ones what it takes to get the job done,” Rundio said. “A concern for our team is keeping everyone on the same page and wanting the same thing every night. We all need to want to play well and do our best.”
Darby opened Aug. 17 in the Marysville Spike-Off, defeating Lewistown Indian Lake 25-20, 16-25, 25-13 and losing to Canal Winchester 25-19, 25-22, and beat West Jefferson 25-17, 25-17, 25-6 on Aug. 24.
The Panthers opened OCC-Cardinal play with a 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 loss to Westerville North on Aug. 27 before defeating Dublin Jerome 25-15, 25-11, 25-20 on Aug. 29.
In the Sharon Huesman quad-match, Darby defeated Delaware (25-10, 25-18) and Newark (25-16, 25-22) before losing to Davidson.